Preparedness in Tonga key to weathering Cyclone Winston

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Training and pre-positioned emergency supplies means that people on the Tongan island of Vava'u are more prepared as they face Cyclone Winston's damaging winds for a second time in just a few days.

Passing Vava'u earlier in the week as a Category Two storm that damaged crops and caused power outages, Cyclone Winston has made an about-turn and is now a Category Four cyclone with the potential to cause serious damage.

Caritas in Tonga has trained volunteers (including on Vava'u) who previously responded to the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Ian in 2014, and is moving crucial supplies to the areas that are likely to be most affected.

"Caritas is a key humanitarian aid organisation in Tonga, and continues to play a vital role in coordinating relief and rehabilitation projects, such as the ongoing construction of cyclone-strength housing for vulnerable families," says Mark Mitchell, Senior Humanitarian Programmes Coordinator for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.

"Preparing communities to be first-responders in emergencies is a fundamental part of our humanitarian work, and makes a significant difference when natural disasters hit."

Due to the increased risks from the current El Nino weather pattern, Caritas has already pre-positioned a large quantity of emergency supplies in Tonga, with the help of the New Zealand Aid Programme. The social justice agency is also ready to respond with staff and is closely monitoring the situation.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has worked closely with Caritas Tonga for more than a decade in emergency preparedness and long-term development programmes which include adapting to the effects of climate change and developing sustainable livelihoods.