Oxfam deploys team to Tonga following reports of ‘complete destruction’ by Cyclone Ian

Oxfam's picture
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
“We will help with clean water and re-establishing crops which will give people food to eat and sell, so they can support themselves, recover markets and re-build their lives. ”

Carlos Calderon
Pacific Humanitarian Manager, Oxfam New Zealand
Published: 14 January 2014

Oxfam New Zealand has sent an emergency response team to Tonga today and is gearing up its aid efforts following reports of complete destruction left by Cyclone Ian to the northern islands of Ha’apai.

Matelita Blake-Hour, from Oxfam’s partner organization in Tonga, The Tongan National Youth Congress (TNYC), is in Ha’apai as part of the Tongan Government’s assessment team, surveying the damage to determine the most urgent needs.

“I’ve never seen anything so fierce and so scary in my life,” said Blake-Hour today. “In some areas I can see the path the cyclone cut through the trees, it’s complete destruction - every house has been destroyed and every family affected, but then out of the path of the cyclone some trees and buildings are still standing.

Ms. Blake-Hour said she thinks there is about 90% destruction to the low-lying, outer islands of Foa, Ha’ano and Mo’unga’one, and about 80% to Pangai, the capital of Ha’apai.

“Houses, trees, even plants are destroyed. There’s no fruit, no crops, or anything. Some houses have been lifted up and put down somewhere else.

“Even the road from Pangai to the airport, the sea has picked it up and put it on the other side. Even the strong church building – its roof has been lifted off.

“I have seen cyclones before, many times, but nothing like this. People are homeless and living in evacuation centers, they’ve lost everything. It is good when they see us, they calm down, they know we will help.”

Oxfam aid delivery

Oxfam sent two specialists to Tonga today and a third will follow tomorrow to help with water, sanitation, livelihoods and food.

Carlos Calderon, Pacific Humanitarian Manager of Oxfam New Zealand, will join the team in Tonga tomorrow. He said: “We will help with clean water and re-establishing crops which will give people food to eat, but also to sell so they can support themselves, recover markets and re-build their lives. For people who get their incomes from the land, this is essential. We want to help them return to normality as soon as possible.”

Ms. Blake-Hour said that clean water for drinking and sanitation was a real concern as many people on the islands rely on rooftop rainwater catchment systems for drinking water, and wells for washing and cleaning water. Although water was stored prior to the cyclone in large tanks, most of it is now undrinkable.

“With all the roofs off houses there is no way for people to get clean water and most of the wells and water tanks have turned brown and taste salty from the sea. Dirt has got in and we are telling people not to drink it because it will make them sick,” she said.

Oxfam projects in Ha’apai damaged

Oxfam, along with our local partner organization the Tongan National Youth Congress (TNYC), has had programs in Ha’apai for almost two years, including three organic coconut oil processing sites that provide a much-needed way for local farmers to earn a living exporting coconut oil to America.

Ms. Blake-Hour has come across two out of three sites in her assessments with the Tongan government, both of which were found damaged.

“At one site the roof is torn off, at another the dryer is destroyed and all of the coconuts have been ripped from the trees. We need to collect the coconuts quickly and process them or we will lose a lot of oil, which means no way for people who have lost everything to make money and rebuild their lives.”

Donations to Oxfam’s Cyclone Ian appeal can be made at www.oxfam.org.nz, by phoning 0800 600 700, or to make an automatic $3 donation, please text HELP to 4847.

Contact Information

For more information, or to organise an interview with Matelita Blake-Hour in Ha’apai, please contact:
Lucy Oakshott, lucy.oakshott@oxfam.org.nz, direct line +64 (0)9 3557413 or mob +64 (0)21 881162.

You may also like

Winter hits refugees from the Syria Crisis again - photos from Zaatari

These photos from Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan, which holds more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, show how some people have been coping with camp life. As winter begins to bite, we will be helping refugees living in the tented settlements through the distribution of blankets and plastic sheeting.

On the road, Northern Cebu, Philippines. Photo: Vincent Malasador/Oxfam

Philippines Typhoon Haiyan

We are delivering emergency aid in parts of the Philippines hit by Typhoon Haiyan. We urgently need your support to reach 500,000 people.

Donate now

Oxfam food storage for distribution, Cyclone Phailin. Photo: Sam Spickett/Oxfam

Emergency response

Oxfam launches an emergency response when lives, health, and livelihoods are threatened by natural disasters or armed conflict.

News Source : Oxfam deploys team to Tonga following reports of ‘complete destruction’ by Cyclone Ian

Copy this html code to your website/blog to embed this press release.