Cyclone Ula strikes Tonga: Oxfam poised to respond

Oxfam New Zealand is ready to respond to cyclone Ula, which swept through Tonga overnight and is expected to continue its course through the country until this evening.

The Tongan Meteorological Service has estimated wind speeds up to 150kmph.

Cyclone Ula has already passed through Tuvalu with gale force winds and heavy rains. As it pounds through Tonga, Ula has the potential to cause damage to property, crops and infrastructure, cause local power failure and there is a high risk of injuries. Cyclone Ula is predicted to lose intensity as it heads away from Tonga towards Fiji’s southern islands.

Oxfam stands ready to send emergency staff to Tonga to assess the situation on the ground, and identify the most urgent needs.

Carlos Calderon, Pacific Humanitarian Manager for Oxfam New Zealand, says: “Cyclone Ula is hitting Tonga with very destructive winds and there is a risk of high seas causing flooding in low-lying areas. We have emergency supplies in Tonga ready in place, so once the urgent needs are assessed we are ready to help coordinate the supply of clean water and sanitation for those affected by the disaster.”

Oxfam, along with its partner Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC), operates virgin coconut oil and organics programmes throughout the country. Oxfam is liaising with TNYC to prepare for an appropriate and coordinated response.

In January 2014, Tropical Cyclone Ian ripped through the Ha'apai islands in Tonga, destroying buildings and homes. Oxfam launched an emergency response, providing access to safe water, ensuring sanitation needs were met, and helping people recover their livelihoods so they can earn a living and support themselves and their families.

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