Communications needed as Ian rehab begins in Tonga

While communications are down in Tonga’s Ha'apai Islands, concerns are held by families for the well being of the communities that live on low lying outer islands, as aerial pictures continue to come in showing extensive damage to homes and villages. The organisers of the recovery effort, hampered by communications problems, are finding it hard to assess the needs priorities.

Flights to Ha‘apai are expected to resume on Monday.

Aerial photos show that a village with about 40 homes on tiny Mo'unga'one Island was flattened by the powerful category 5 storm. Few houses remain standing and the fate of the villagers will remain unknown until communications are restored to the group. At 1:00pm on Saturday, TC Ian's centre passed only 15 km northeast of Mo‘unga'one and 30 km north of the main island Lifuka.

Sione Taumoefolau, head of the Tonga Red Cross, said about 6,000 people live in the Ha‘apai Group, most of them in the main town of Pangai on Lifuka. He believed that 70% of the homes have been either destroyed or have lost their roofs, including the Red Cross office and a Red Cross relief centre with its supplies. “We still have one container of supplies that survived,” he said.

“At the moment people are living in community buildings and they are not built for that purpose. I think we need to get tarpaulins out to the homes that have lost their roofs so that people can get out of the shelters and back home to start their lives.” Sione said that he has a stock of tarpaulins in Ha‘apai and more tarpaulins would be sent over from Tongatapu.


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