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After Cyclone Ian massive Ha‘apai clean-up starts

The first flight landed at Lifuka’s Salote Pilolevu Airport shortly after dawn this morning. Digicel-Tonga’s charter flight was carrying technicians on an urgent mission to restore communications and power. As Tropical Cyclone Ian moved away from Tonga, we found the Ha‘apai people emerging from the shelter of their churches and schools to clean-up after the most powerful cyclone ever known to cross Tongan waters.The airport landing strip runs the entire width of Lifuka Island and on the northern coastal approach, is Koulo village, home to 214 people. From the air most of its 37 homes now look like little piles of matchsticks, with a few intact roofs here and there. The extent of the devastation in Ha‘apai becomes immediately clear. Thousands of people in Ha‘apai have lost their homes and possessions, and few timber structures are left standing after Tropical Cyclone Ian's narrow Cat 5 centre inflicted wide-spread tornado-like destruction on the main town Pangai and Ha'apai's many small villages.