Tonga - Tropical Cyclone Waka OCHA Situation Report No. 3

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 06 Feb 2002
Ref. OCHA/GVA - 2002/0037
OCHA Situation Report No. 3
Tonga -Tropical Cyclone Waka
29 - 31 December 2001

This report is based on information provided by the Tonga National Disaster Management Office, through the OCHA Regional Disaster Response Adviser for the Pacific in Suva, Fiji.

Situation and Losses

1. Tropical Cyclone (TC) Waka mainly affected the islands of Niuafo'ou and Niuatoputapu in Northern Tonga, the Vava'u Group, and to a lesser extent the Ha'apai Group in Central Tonga. It was the most damaging cyclone to strike Tonga since Cyclone Isaac in 1982.

2. 60% of buildings including 1500 homes and 20 schools were damaged in Vava'u, and 10% of buildings including 12 homes and 3 schools were damaged in Niuafo'ou. On Niuatoputapu, the district high school and staff quarters were nearly completely destroyed. Power lines were also brought down, jetties damaged, small fishing boats sunk, and subsistence and cash crops (vanilla and kava) across all these islands were damaged or lost. Damage to crops on Vava'u is estimated at USD 10 million, and losses to fisheries at USD 2 million. Crops on Ha'apai also fared badly, not least because they had suffered from drought for the five months before the cyclone. The total cost of the damage is USD 51 million, of which 74 per cent is damage to public and private buildings.

Needs

3. The immediate emergency relief phase has now been concluded, although there are still outstanding emergency shelter needs (tarpaulins and tents). Attention has now turned to rehabilitation, where the greatest needs are in the education, agriculture and housing sectors. A WHO official visited the affected islands and reported that there appear to be no major problems with water supply, sanitation, and general health, although a number of water supply facilities were damaged on Vava'u and Niuafo'ou, and the situation should be closely monitored.

4. The Government is seeking USD 8.7 million in international assistance for ongoing relief - of which 80 per cent is for food and freight costs - and USD 30.5 million for its rehabilitation programme, mainly for the repair and reconstruction of schools, houses and infrastructure. According to the finance minister, the total government budget this year is only USD 42 million; there are thus severe fiscal constraints on the Government's ability to respond to this disaster, without upsetting its delicate balance of payments situation.

National and International Response

5. The Government sent an assessment team to the affected island groups on 8 January. The Cabinet approved their multi-sectoral assessment report on 18 January, and declared Vava'u, Ha'apai, and the Niuas to be disaster areas. On 21 January, the Government formally notified OCHA of the disaster and communicated its request for international assistance, and on 24 January, it held a donor meeting to disseminate its requirements.

6. Three consignments of food and seedlings donated by NGOs, churches and individuals were shipped at government expense on 15, 17 and 29 January. An appeal also raised about USD 10,000 locally. The Government plans to send a monthly shipment for the next six months, supported by overseas aid, until the fastest-growing crops have matured.

7. The earliest international relief response came from Australia and New Zealand. A large consignment of food aid from French Polynesia is expected in Vava'u on 4 February. China, Fiji, USA, and UN agencies have also made cash contributions to support ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts (see Situation Report No. 2 for more details).

8. The World Health Organization (WHO) donated USD 5,000 on 11 January 2002 to support 1) purification of water, 2) insecticides, 3) improvement of dump site and 4) toilet facilities in the affected villages. WHO has also ordered WHO New Emergency Health Kit 98 (NEHK98), which is a standard WHO emergency health kit to meet the PHC needs (for a population of 10,000 people for 3 months) of a population with disrupted medical facilities in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, to support 1) provision of emergency medical supplies for increasing health needs and 2) provision of oral medication for children in the affected areas. In order to assess the damage of the living environments in selected communities, WHO dispatched an environmental expert from WHO South Pacific Office in Fiji to Vava'u on 18-22 January 2002, based on the request of the Government of Tonga. The findings of assessment were presented at a donor's meeting held in Nuku'alofa on 24 January 2002.

9. The Government expects that assistance from New Zealand, French Polynesia and its other development partners will contribute to the cost of rebuilding the schools (USD 3.6 million). NGOs including Caritas Oceania and the Council of Churches will be providing assistance with the rehabilitation of private homes.

General Information

10. OCHA is in contact with relevant authorities in Tonga through its Regional Disaster Response Adviser for the Pacific, and will revert with further information when available.

11. Information on contributions to this disaster may be found by clicking on Financial Tracking at the top of the page for this disaster on the OCHA Internet Website (http://www.reliefweb.int). Donors are requested to verify this table and inform OCHA Geneva of corrections/additions/values. Donors are encouraged to notify OCHA Geneva of their contributions to this disaster using the OCHA Standardized Contributions Recording Format, available electronically in the above mentioned Financial Tracking Website.

12. This situation report, together with information on other ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int

Telephone: +41/22.917.1234
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23
E-mail: ochagva@un.org

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers:
Desk Officers: Mr. R. Muller / Mr. K. Quiding / Ms. C. Cassabalian
Direct Tel. +41-22-917 3131 / 1769 / 1173

Press contact:
(in GVA) Ms. Moulin-Acedo, direct Tel. +41-22-917 31 60
(in N.Y.) Ms. Phyllis Lee, direct Tel. +1-212-963 48 32

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

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