Australian emergency supplies arriving in Tonga. Photo: Scott McLennan/DFAT
Family tents and hygiene kits being unloaded. Photo: Louise Scott/DFAT
An aerial image of the damage on Lifuka Island, Ha'apai. Photo: Royal New Zealand Air Force
Up to 70 per cent of buildings in parts of Ha’apai were left damaged or destroyed by Cyclone Ian. Photo: Scott McLennan / DFAT
UPDATED 12 FEBRUARY Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced Australia has provided 200 family tents and 250 hygiene kits to assist the Government of Tonga respond to the needs of people still managing the effects of Cyclone Ian.
The relief supplies arrived in Tonga on Saturday 8 February following an official request for assistance from the Government of Tonga to help fill outstanding emergency shelter needs.
Cyclone Ian passed over the Ha'apai island group in Tonga’s north as a Category 5 storm on Saturday 11 January. It was the strongest storm on record experienced by the Pacific island nation. There was one confirmed fatality and extensive damage to housing, crops and public buildings.
This additional assistance builds on Australia’s initial emergency response in the aftermath of Cyclone Ian. This included $50,000 in emergency supplies through the Tonga Red Cross Society and assistance to transport relief supplies under the bilateral Defence Cooperation Program.
Three technical experts from the Australian Civilian Corps are also now in Tonga to assist the Tongan Government with response coordination, assessments and recovery efforts.
Ha’apai is home to about 6650 people. The primary sources of income and livelihood support are subsistence agriculture, fishing and remittances from friends and family living abroad. Infrastructure on the islands is basic, and as a result vulnerable to natural disasters.
Australia has provided early and well-targeted support to the disaster-affected areas through its existing bilateral aid program.
We have made funds available to Tonga’s health ministry to purchase essential drugs, a water pump for the main hospital in Ha’apai, and send Ministry of Health assessment teams to Ha’apai.
We have also worked with the World Bank to re-prioritise funds from a joint infrastructure program to rehabilitate damaged critical infrastructure, such as the airport tower, the port and roads.
‘The Australian Government has an extensive network of emergency contacts in Tonga, and will work closely with the Government of Tonga to support their response efforts,’ Ms Bishop said.