Cyclone causes flooding in Tonga's capital

from Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Published on 16 Feb 2012 View Original

Updated February 16, 2012 09:24:25

Residents in Tonga say Cyclone Jasmine has caused flooding in homes and properties in the capital Nuku'alofa.

Many people were evacuated.

There are also reports of at least two fishing vessels sinking in the fierce storm including a South Korean fishing boat, which had been the subject of a pending marine inquiry.

Local media say three South Korean fisherman on board the vessel were rescued on Tuesday.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker:Leveni Aho, Head of Tonga's Disaster Relief Activities

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AHO: The situation here is now the weather has cleared up this morning, which is much more welcome given the situation that it was in the past few days. I think the cyclone itself did not suffer much in the way of damages to structures and that. The most that we sustained was so much rain and then excessive water through the low-lying areas, in the outskirts of Nuku'alofa, these areas have seen so much rain. I mean when Cyclone Jasmine came there was already excessive water there before, so the problem was compounded when Jasmine arrived. However at the time now that the weather has sort of subsidised, the water has reduced there now. But there has been over 400 people displaced, which is about 71 families that have been relocated to evacuation centres. So at this point in time we are looking after these people, but with the weather clearing up they will start to go back to their places. I think the main urgent situation now is just to get the excessive water out from those areas, which is very difficult because of the low-lying nature of the land. But they were managing that with the support of our agencies, like the Red Cross and defence services, police at this point. I think that's where we are with the clearing up of the weather it's much more welcome at this point in time.

COUTTS: Has there been any damage to any of the infrastructure, have there been roads washed out and damaged, bridges, the airport, power lines, telephone lines?

AHO: I think the power has been restored to most of Nuku'alofa by now, there are still some areas that need to be restored, but other infrastructures, the airport I think there's not much damage, the wharf it's ok. As I said before there was very little damage to houses. There were one or two houses that fell in creeks, but there was very little damage, the wind was only a category one cyclone, so it wasn't very strong. But I think our biggest problem was the continuous rain over the past few days, and a few houses and residences have been under water. That's our major concern and I think we have addressed that by moving people to evacuation centres. But I think maybe in a day or two we will start to get them back to normalcy if the weather continues to be fine, as we had this morning.

COUTTS: And are there concerns now about health issues with so much water around attracting more mossies, so malaria and diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid, those sorts of things that usually accompany flooding of this kind?

AHO: Yeah our Ministry of Health this morning examined that quite closely and so far we haven't had any indication of that problem. But yes it's still a potential threat and risk that we are closely monitoring. But I think once things are cleaned up there shouldn't be that much, but it's still a godsend because of so much water, particularly in the low-lying areas where septic tank leakages will become a problem. But I think today we will start working very closely with our communities to address these areas and the Ministry of Health is also looking closely at that as well.

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