Tonga

MET Office conducts Multi-Hazard Early Warning Policy Consultations in Niuatoputapu and Tafahi

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10th December 2020 The Met Office is completing a series of public consultations with the Communities of Niuatoputapu this week. The consultations are part of the Multi-hazard Early Warning System (MHEW) Component of the Pacific Resilience Project (PREP) for the establishment of a MHEWS Policy for Tonga.

According to the Director of Meteorology, Mr. Ofa Fa’anunu “Cabinet on 18 September 2020 gave approval for a MHEWS Policy to be formulated for Tonga to better guide works associated with Early Warning and Preparedness to natural Disasters. So far we have conducted consultations in parts of Tongatapu, Eua, about 50% of Ha’apai and now Niuatoputapu. Because everyone is affected by extreme events here in Tonga its crucial we capture everyone’s views (inclusiveness) irrespective of geographical location, livelihoods, gender and age. For Tonga to have an effective early warning system everybody must be on board and no one left behind. We hope to complete consultations in January 2021 and submit the Draft Policy to Cabinet for Government Endorsement in February 2021 for consideration”

During these Consultations, the MET Office is also collecting Traditional Knowledge on weather and climate forecasting and warning indicators to (1) assist them with providing better and well understood warnings but also to (2) gather these information for use of future generations and at schools throughout Tonga. According to Fa’anunu, “There are weather and ocean phenomena that we can predict and the public could expect to receive a warning from the warning centre on what the conditions are like and likely to be based on scientific instrumentation and interpretation of scientific data. However, there are extreme events like local tsunami, tornadoes, thunderstorms and effects of local terrain that happen on extremely short time scales that only natural signs and traditional indicators can be used for warnings. It is important that we know these warning signs.

Niuatoputapu is rich with traditional knowledge. These folk have lived in these northern islands for centries and they now how to read the signs and combat the elements. We have a lot to learn from them. Combining traditional indicators and contemporary forecasts helps us to look are our warnings from 2 perspectives and we are finding it easier to communicate to communities by using the language and the terms the communities are use to.”

There are definitely some challenges in implementing Early Warning Systems in Niuatoputapu according to the Director of Meteorology. “Communications are an issue here in Niuatoputapu. Mobile coverage is problematic in parts of Vaipoa, Falehau and Tafahi. Without proper communications, early warning will be a chanlenge. These are the real issues we have to see how we can overcome as well.”

During the consultations, the Team were able to also consult with the communities of Niuatoputapu on the services currently being provided and how to improve on them. It was also an opportunity to extend to the people of Niuatoputapu what to expect in the 2020/21 tropical cyclone season.

The consultations were carried out by Director of Meteorology, Mr. Ofa Fa’anunu, Assistant Forecaster Mr. Sitaniselao Uatahausi and NTT Meteorology OIC, Mr. Palavi Lefai and funded by the PREP Tonga Project.

ENDS

For further information please contact the Meteorology Division on 35355 or metstaff@met.gov.to. More information is also available at www.met.gov.to