January 12, 2014
Reports of damage caused by cyclone in Tonga: Oxfam prepares to send staff
Oxfam New Zealand is preparing to send staff to Tonga within 48 hours to assess the situation on the ground and identify the most urgent needs for people following reports of severe damage caused by Cyclone Ian to Tonga's northern island group of Ha'apai.
The extent of the devastation is still unclear but a representative from the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) has reported that publicbuildings like the Palace, market, magistrate and police offices have been partly damaged. In Pangai, the capital of Ha'apai, one home was lifted and transported 50 metres before being set down, and many other houses have been badly damaged.
Oxfam's Executive Director, Barry Coates, says: "Communications are proving difficult and Oxfam is still trying to establish the facts but our experience of cyclones in other contexts suggests that people will need food, shelter, clean water and sanitation.
"Once the critical needs are assessed we'll decide whether we need to help with the supply of clean water and sanitation or recovering farmers, fishermen and markets to secure the food supply - or both. We have experienced engineers and farming specialists ready to go," he says.
In Tonga, including in Ha'apai, Oxfam has partnered with Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) since 1991. Through the partnership, hundreds of families are producing virgin organic coconut oil for export which is generating valuable income. These programmes increase people's resilience and enable quicker recovery when disaster strikes.
Coates adds: "This disaster is in our neighbourhood. Reports are still filtering in, but it is becoming clear that severe damage is likely. This is a crucial time to support our Tongan neighbours."
Oxfam is accepting donations for our rapid response emergency fund online or by phone 0800 600 700.