Ardern mission for post-Gita visit to Tonga, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Ardern mission for post-Gita visit to Tonga, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the New Zealand government’s Pacific Mission will take place early next month and travel to Tonga, Samoa, Niue, and the Cook Islands.

“It will be an honour to have the Pacific Mission led by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and is a further sign of the importance New Zealand attaches to our Pacific neighbours,” Peters said, confirming the dates as March 4-9.

“The government carefully considered whether the Pacific Mission would impose a burden on Tonga and Samoa in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Gita.”

“However the government decided to proceed to allow the delegation to see first-hand the ongoing response. We will also discuss with the governments of Tonga and Samoa, as much as able to be learned at this point, what support is required for long-term recovery,” he said.

The Pacific Mission delegation is made up of MPs, Pasifika community leaders, and NGO representatives.

The delegation size is smaller this year with the mission changing focus because of Tropical Cyclone Gita.

“New Zealand’s close ties with Samoa and Tonga are built on a deep bilateral partnership, and a shared commitment to Pacific regionalism. Niue and Cook Islands are constitutional partners for New Zealand and we share citizenship as well as a set of mutual obligations and responsibilities,” Peters said.

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Tonga’s Parliament seeks temporary home after Gita smashed old House

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tonga’s Parliament seeks temporary home after Gita smashed old House

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

As Tonga struggles to recover from Cyclone Gita, authorities are looking for somewhere to host the next Parliamentary sessions next month.

Parliament needs a place to meet between March 1-15 so MPs can process bills and laws that are required for the government’s 2018-2019 budget.

A Parliamentary spokesperson said the Speaker’s office was working urgently to decide on a suitable venue before informing all Members of Parliament.

As Kaniva News reported yesterday, Tonga’s Parliament House, which is more than a century old, was flattened by tropical cyclone Gita.

Australia and New Zealand have already sent personnel and humanitarian supplies, including tarpaulins and water purification tablets to Tonga.

The New Zealand government had pledged $750,000 to help rescue and relief operations and an RNZAF Hercules would fly emergency relief supplies to the kingdom.

An RAAF C-17A Globemaster flew to Tonga with emergency relief supplies last night.

Tongan proposal to China
As Kaniva News reported last year, Tonga has submitted a proposal to the Chinese government to fund a new Parliament House.

The Chinese Ambassador to Tonga, Wang Baodong, was welcomed at the Legislative Assembly in June 2017.

It was not immediately clear whether Tongan and Chinese authorities have taken another look at the proposal after Parliament was levelled on Monday or not.

Cyclone Gita, a category four storm, struck Tonga’s main island Tongatapu and its nearby island ‘Eua on Monday, causing widespread damage.

Electricity lines were downed, roofs were torn off houses by the high winds and crops were destroyed.

Disaster Management Minister Poasi Tei told reporters in Nuku’alofa yesterday 119 homes were completely destroyed and 1131 with minor damages while 4500 people were at the 108 evacuation centres in Tongatapu.

Tonga Power workers have restored power in some areas in Tongatapu yesterday afternoon.

The Tonga Water Board announced that water supplies had been restored to almost all areas of Nuku’alofa.

In earlier reports, residents were finding it more difficult to cope with the aftermath because of lack of power which had also affected water supplies, communication and petrol stations.

Some people in Houmakelikao went to the Minister of Police’s residence and charged their mobile phones using electric generated from the Minster’s electric power generator.

The town of Houma in Tongatapu lost its water supply after their two-tank water supplier was destroyed by Gita.

The town’s residents took to Facebook to ask their community members overseas to help donate funding for a new water supplier.

Two deaths reported
As Kaniva News reported, two deaths have been confirmed. A 72-year-old man from Fua’amotu died at Vaiola Hospital.

Minister Poasi Tei told Kaniva News yesterday the impact of the cyclone might have contributed to the old man’s death.

RNZI quoted Lord Fusitu’a as saying an elderly woman died after her house was “completely blown away from her while she was in it.”

Police also confirmed three major injuries and 30 minor injuries on Tongatapu as a result of Gita.

Asia Pacific Report republishes some Kaniva News articles as a collaboration project.

Falling trees and downed power poles hinder Tonga’s Gita relief effort

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Falling trees and downed power poles hinder Tonga’s Gita relief effort

By Kalino Latu. editor of Kaniva News

The Tongan government’s efforts to assess the extent of destruction by Tropical Cyclone Gita have been hindered by falling trees and downed power poles.

The Minister of Disaster Management, Poasi Tei, said teams of government assessors had been dispatched to villages and towns to report on damage caused by the category four cyclone.

However, they could not start their work immediately because the roads were blocked by debris and downed powerlines.

VIDEO: ‘This is pretty horrific’ – Barbara Dreaver describes Cyclone Gita as her most frightening cyclone experience in 30 years

It is expected the assessment would be completed by tomorrow, Tei told Kaniva News.

New Zealand and Australia have sent two aircraft carrying aid to Tonga.

Tei said he was thankful for the New Zealand and Australia’s assistance so far.

Two of the New Zealand Pasifika media contingent in Tonga at work – John Pulu of Tagata Pasifika and TV1 News Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver. Image: John Pulu/Facebook

Meanwhile, a 72-year-old man from Fua’amotu died suddenly in hospital while three people were seriously injured and 30 were admitted to hospital with minor injuries, Tei said.

Police offices flooded
Police Minister Māteni Tapueluelu said his ministerial office and some other police offices had been flooded.

He said many school buildings had had their roofs ripped off when Cyclone Gita struck.

Tapueluelu said this afternoon attempts to get information from ‘Eua in the wake of Gita had failed because telephones and the internet were down.

Another aircraft from New Zealand will fly to Tonga to conduct a surveillance survey in ‘Eua.

He said police were trying to make contact with the island from Nakolo in Hahake because of their closeness but he has yet to be updated in it.

It has been estimated about 5700 people sought shelter in evacuation centres during the cyclone, and it is expected these numbers would increase substantially  last night.

About 80,000 people in Tonga, including 32,000 children, were at risk from Cyclone Gita, Unicef said.

In Fiji, The Fiji Times reports Gita was expected to be located about 140 km west-southwest of Ono-i-Lau, or 300km southeast of Kadavu last night.

Fiji Meteorological Services director Ravind Kumar said the storm continued to move further west heading towards New Zealand.

From New Zealand, RNZ reports Gita has been upgraded to category five, the highest possible, Fiji’s Meteorological service says. Follow RNZ’s live coverage.

A house wrecked by the fury of Cyclone Gita. Image: Patimiosi Ngungutau/Kaniva News

Tonga welcomes NZ $750,000 aid offer in wake of Gita’s destruction

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tonga welcomes NZ $750,000 aid offer in wake of Gita’s destruction

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

The Tongan government has welcomed New Zealand’s offer to donate $750,000 and personnel assistance in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Gita’s destruction.

The NZ government has a military plane with assistance ready to go once it is safe to land in Tonga.

Tonga’s Minister of Police Māteni Tapueluelu told Kaniva News in Auckland the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had indicated yesterday before Cyclone Gita struck the kingdom last night that it stood by and was prepared.

Tapueluelu said the Tongan government was in the process of fulfilling procedural requirements before it could receive the donation and all assistance.

NZ Minister for Pacific People ‘Aupito William Sio said last night that while New Zealand was on standby mode ready to provide support to all Pacific countries affected by Cyclone Gita, “it will not respond unless requested by the affected Pacific government”.

Prime Minister Arden said the NZ government had a military plane and $750,000 ready to help cyclone-battered Tonga, Fairfax Media reported.

The NZ government had already pledged $50,000 to help but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ today a contingency fund had been signed off so there would be no “no hold up” when they knew where to use the funds.

The aftermath
Tonga’s main island Tongatapu and its island of ‘Eua were savaged by the category 4 tropical cyclone last night in what has been called the worst storm to hit the country in 60 years, with gusts of up to 278kmh.

Tongatapu and ‘Eua residents woke today to what “looks like a war zone” and are assessing the extensive damage left behind by destructive Cyclone Gita, with emergency services fearing there will be “more injuries if not deaths”.

New Zealand media said two deaths had been confirmed.

Gita brought gale-force wind gusts of up to 200km/h, record-breaking rainfall of more than 200mm in an hour, and surging tides threatening widespread floods.

Cyclone Gita’s “destructive core” battered the east coast, stripping palm trees bare, destroying businesses, churches, schools and leaving homes in ruins.

Devastating photos show buildings in Hihifo and Hahake areas of Tongatapu with roofs ripped off and homes inundated with water.

Tonga’s Parliament House was levelled and school buildings in Apifo’ou college have been ripped off.

Tropical Cyclone Gita leaves trail of destruction in Tonga

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tropical Cyclone Gita leaves trail of destruction in Tonga

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita has left a trail of destruction after hitting Tonga with 200 kph plus winds during the night.

RNZ reports that on the main island of Tongatapu in the kingdom, the category four cyclone had ripped roofs off houses, brought down trees, destroyed a Catholic church, and took the Tongan Met Office in Fua’amotu and the national radio station off line.

Roads across the island were blocked by debris and power lines were downed restricting relief efforts.

“Gita’s fury” … Today’s New Zealand Herald front page.

Last night, TV One’s Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver reported from the eye of the storm, saying: “It’s screaming like a freight train and it just keeps getting noisier and noisier”.

Speaking by telephone from her Nuku’alofa hotel room, she said the biggest danger for her were palm trees or sheet metal flying through the window.

“Compared to storms at home [in New Zealand], this just doesn’t compare. It’s like someone screaming out of control, the palm trees are bent over sideways, there’s a lot of variables in play. You’re completely at its mercy.”

Retired Tongan Navy officer Solomone Savelio reported on Twitter today:  “Lot of trees falling over on powerline, roads, houses. Expect power to be out for days in some areas. Some places [are] flooded. Some (mostly old houses or huts) have [roofs] blown off. 2 deaths so far. Unknown injuries. Hospital request 4 blood.”

Damage in an unnamed Nuku’alofa hotel last night. Image: @SolomoneSavelio on Twitter
Tonga’s century-old Parliament destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Gita. Image: @SolomonSavelio on Twitter

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Tonga under curfew as kingdom braces for fury of Cyclone Gita

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tonga under curfew as kingdom braces for fury of Cyclone Gita

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

An overnight curfew was in place in Tonga tonight as the kingdom awaited the full force of Cyclone Gita, which was threatening to become a devastating category five storm.

Tropical Cyclone Gita bearing down on Tonga. Image:

Tonga Police Commissioner Stephen Caldwell ordered a curfew in the central business district area of the capital Nuku’alofa between 9pm and 7am tomorrow.

The following roads set the perimetre for the CBD area – Tupoulahi Road to the east,
Mateialona Road to the south, Vaha’akolo Road to the west and Vuna Road to
the north.

READ MORE: TV One News’ Barbara Dreaver in the eye of the storm

“This is to further protect people and property, and we ask for public understanding and common sense to be used at this time.”

No one is allowed to enter the Nuku’alofa central business area apart from members of the Tropical Cyclone Gita Emergency Response Team.

Those who live within the CBD area were being urged to stay indoors, or get to an evacuation centre as soon as possible.

“We are urging people to seek refuge from this severe cyclone that could be the most powerful in the country’s history,” said Commissioner Caldwell.

Tongan Defence Service troops preparing for Tropical Cyclone Gita. Image: Matangi Tonga

Police patrols will be joined by Tonga’s Armed Forces for full coverage of Tongatapu to ensure community awareness, public safety and to evacuate as necessary.

Key safety messages to the public:

  • Keep yourself and your family safe
  • Keep off the road
  • Stay at home if it’s safe
  • Get to an Evacuation Centre as soon as possible with food and water
  • Keep away from the Coastline
  • Make sure you have water, food, candles, torches, medical kit if you have them
  • Charge cell phones for emergency
  • Keep indoors, and away from flying debris

Republished with permission from Kaniva News.

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Tonga declares state of emergency to face looming wrath of Cyclone Gita

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tonga declares state of emergency to face looming wrath of Cyclone Gita

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Tonga has declared a state of emergency today in preparation for severe Tropical Cyclone Gita as it threatens to hit the southern part of the kingdom with a potential category 5 force tonight, reports Matangi Tonga.

Acting Prime Minister Semisi Sika announced the state of emergency at 10am, saying this was due to the destructive force winds and expected sea level rise brought by Gita.

The tropical cyclone, which has already caused widespread destruction in Samoa and American Samoa, is expected to hit Tonga about 7pm.

The state of emergency is to help prevent or minimise loss of lives, injury, damage to property and the environment, Matangi Tonga reported.

READ MORE: Tonga declares state of emergency – Matangi Tonga

Earlier, Kaniva Tonga reported that Tonga’s Minister of Police Māteni Tapueluelu said police had forced a hardware supplier to close down yesterday for breaching the country’s Sunday laws.

The minister said Pacific Timber and Hardware “opened without permission this morning [Sunday] and we had it closed down.”

His response came after Kaniva News reported yesterday two hardware suppliers opened temporarily for the public with Cyclone Gita approaching but they had no permits to do so.

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Mata’afa Keni Lesa: Cyclone Gita’s over but remember Ofa’s vengeance

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Mata’afa Keni Lesa: Cyclone Gita’s over but remember Ofa’s vengeance

OPINION: By Mata’afa Keni Lesa, editor of the Samoa Observer

Tropical Cyclone Gita has left just as quickly as it arrived on Friday night and yesterday morning.

Within six hours, it left hundreds of people devastated as a result of strong winds and flooding. Folks, it sends shivers down the spine to think what more damage it could have done if it stayed on a bit longer.

While it was predicted to be a Category 1 Cyclone, it felt more like a Category 3 at its strongest. We doubt many people had a decent sleep when the cyclone was at its peak.

READ MORE: NZ and Australia monitor path of Cyclone Gita after heavy damage in Samoa

The howling winds, the heavy rain and the floods that accompanied them were truly scary. Thank God it didn’t last long.

Mind you, for many people badly affected by heavy flooding, its irrelevant that Cyclone Gita was only in Samoa for a few hours. Heavy downpours for several days have once more taken its toll.

The flooding we again witnessed yesterday has to be among some of the worst we’ve seen in this country.

The worst affected areas appear to have been places close to the menacing Vaisigano river, which again showed just how devastating it can be in times like this.

Another Cyclone Evan
Looking at some of the early pictures
of the damage done, this is another Cyclone Evan and more. Images taken from other villages away from Apia showed that flooding was a major part of this cyclone and perhaps even more devastating than the winds.

When it comes to flooding, we thought we’d seen the worst during Cyclone Evan when it decimated areas like Lelata, Fa’atoiaand Vaisigano. Obviously not. This time it reached a lot more places – including as far as Moata’a.

And if scientists and climate change related predictions are anything to go by, flooding is something we will just have to get used to.

Truth be told, I guess the disappointment will have to be that the progress of work to try and avoid what happened during Cyclone Evan has not been quick enough to avoid a repeat.The fact is the same people who suffered back in 2012 have again been hit the hardest. It is heartbreaking to see.

Images of the damage that has again been done to iconic places like the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel are just heartbreaking. It was only a few years ago that they managed to recover from Evan and now they have been hit again.

And spare a thought for many other families in the areas – many of them having had to be evacuated.

The good news is that we have not been told of any casualties yet. When this piece was compiled last night, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi confirmed that no report of any casualty has been brought to their attention.

But let’s not be complacent.

It is true that Cyclone Gita is moving away from us. But lessons from the past should always be a reminder to us that it’s not over until it is really over.

Remember what happened during Cyclone Ofa? Just when we thought that the worst was over, Ofa returned with a vengeance.

This is today’s editorial in the Samoa Observer.

Gallery: Stay away from flooded areas, Samoa police warn after Cyclone Gita

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Gallery: Stay away from flooded areas, Samoa police warn after Cyclone Gita

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Tropical Cyclone Gita might be slowing moving away from Samoa but the danger is far from over and a state of disaster has been declared.

Gita, which has been lashing both Samoa and American Samoa with torrential rain and damaging winds, was upgraded to a category two as it caused flooding, landslides and blocked roads, reports Radio NZ.

The Samoa Observer reports police have warned people to take extra care.

“We urge members of the public to remain vigilant as we are experiencing rough weather due to cyclone Gita,” a police statement said in Apia.

“We advise families to remain indoors and not drive around Apia town area or near bridges and rivers. Flooding remains effective for all areas of Samoa.

“Overflowing rivers should not be crossed and we urge drivers not to put their lives or others at risk by trying to do so.”

Pictures of Cyclone Gita are from the Samoa Metereological Division.

Cyclone Gita hits Samoa

1. Street flooding in the capital Apia..

2. Apia street flooding.

3. Man wading with jandals.

4. Flooded palms in Apia.

5. Rooftop dumped by the wind gusts.

6. Flattened World Rugby league sign.

7. Rain squall streaks.

8. Wading in downtown Apia. Apia.

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