13th November 2020 The Honourable Prime Minister of Tonga, Reverend Dr. Pohiva Tui’onetoa commissioned the new Ha’apai Multi-Hazard Early Warning & Emergency Operation Centre of the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC) today at Pangai, Ha’apai.
In his keynote address Hon. Tuíónetoa said that today we have witnessed a milestone for the Haápai Group as this well-equipped office will strengthen the early warning and preparedness for any approaching hazard.
He said that the vulnerability of the Haápai Group to natural hazard is obvious, which have affected lives, sources of livelihoods sources of income and development. “I am deeply honoured and wish that Haápai will appreciate and make good use of the services this office will provide to be more Resilient.”
“We cannot go against nature but we can decrease its impacts through technology that this office is equipped with.”
The newly constructed Multi-hazard Early Warning and Emergency Operation Centre will serve as a joint office for the Meteorology and Disaster Management Departments of the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC) at Haápai.
It is aimed at building better resilient based services for the safeguard of lives and property through a proactive approach to invest more in disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction through robust Early Warning Systems and Services around disaster mitigation rather than purely responding to disasters as the happen.
The New Ha’apai Centre is connected directly to the Fua’amotu Weather Forecasting Centre and the NEMO Office in Nuku’alofa through fibre optic technology. It is essentially a virtual local area network. This means that if the internet is off in Ha’apai all information can still be shared between MET and NEMO Offices in Tongatapu and Ha’apai.
The Ha’apai Centre is the first significant deliverable of the first Phase of the PREP Project on Improving Multi-hazard Early Warnings Systems. Similar Offices are being established at Vava’u and Tongatapu as a way to establish a resilient information network base for responding to natural hazards. If we rewind back the clock to 2018 during Tropical Cyclone “GITA” there was a point there where the MET Office could not perform its warning function to the Country due to damaged office infrastructure. These Joint Warning and Response Centres being established under PREP will ensure that failure will unlikely happen again.
Other associated works under the Multi-hazard Early Warning Component includes reviews of a number of legislations and pursuing the establishment of a multi-hazard early warning policy for Tonga to establish a common direction of how to respond to warning events as a Country. The Tonga Maritime Radio Network is also being upgraded under the same project which completes the maritime capacity of Tonga’s Early Warning System.
The construction of the Ha’apai Center was provided under the Pacific Resilience Program (PREP) project led by the Ministry of MEIDECC, and co-funded by the World Bank, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) with the total cost of TOP 1,096,467.44.
The designing and supervision of the construction was done by ITS Pacific Limited and the construction was done by a local contractor, the Puloka Construction Limited.
Issued by the: Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications.