Source: Radio New Zealand, 20 February 2018
The cleanup in Tonga is underway as authorities work to clear
debris amid fears mosquito breeding grounds will develop, a New
Zealand journalist in Tonga says.
Cyclone Gita was briefly upgraded this afternoon to a
category five storm but has now been downgraded to category
four and is moving slowly south-west.
The storm made landfall in Tonga on Monday night as a category
four cyclone, ripping roofs off houses, destroying crops, and
destroying a church as well as Parliament House.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force is helping Tongan authorities
with the assessment.
A 10-person team is on the island and 12 tonnes of supplies were
flown in including hygiene kits, temporary shelters and water
An Orion has also conducted aerial surveys.
Authorities were still assessing the damage and working to
reconnect power and water supplies, she said.
Anything people had managed to salvage was now out drying in the
sun, she said. Ripped clothes could be seen hanging on fences.
The roads were mostly clear and trucks were moving
"It's important that debris does get clear and it doesn't become
a mosquito breeding ground," she told Checkpoint with John
She said there had been a recent dengue fever outbreak and one
person had died.
"These breeding grounds can develop really quickly and if you
have got stagnant water ... like a lot of the homes that we have
been to, that is an issue - a big issue."
A lack of fresh water could also create public health
problems and authorities were very aware of that
potential, she said.
Some schools were very badly damaged and only a few shops were
The Red Cross was visiting hundreds of families, she said, and
providing tarpaulins, tents, cooking utensils and tools.
"I saw one family's face when they got their supplies and it was
magic. You know, these are the sort of tools that they've been
waiting for," she said.
New Zealand's acting High Commissioner, Elena Procuta, said
Tonga's disaster authorities were trying to work out how many
households were facing water shortages and related hygiene
Ms Procuta said the number of people displaced was still not
known and assessments were continuing.
Pacific weather forecasters say that Cyclone Gita, which
strengthened to a category five system earlier today, is likely to
weaken slightly over the next 24 hours.
Gita is moving away from Fiji's southern islands in a
west-south-west direction but is expected to tend southwesterly
On this path it will pose little threat to Vanuatu but will
approach close to New Caledonia.