Posted by: Carol | October 1, 2009

Devastation in Niuatoputapu

Tonga_300x20057050The past few days were marred by the devastation that occurred throughout SE Asia and the South Pacific with earthquakes,tsunamis and hurricanes in Indonesia,the Philippines, Samoa and Tonga causing loss of lives and catastrophic property damage all within a few days span of time.  However we are zeroing in on the tragic effects of the tsunami that hit Niuatoputapu in Tonga as a result of the same powerful 8.3 earthquake that affected Samoa a couple of days ago. It has only been a few weeks since aboard Raven we were anchored off Niuatoputapu enjoying the warm hospitality of the islanders in this very remote outpost of Tonga.  Here’s a link to a New Zealand Herald news story describing the damage done to this small island and its inhabitants.  The link follows, as well as a transcription of the story.

> http://www.nzherald.co.nz/samoa-tsunami/news/article.cfm?c_id=1502844&objectid=10600831

“Emergency medical teams arrived at tsunami-hit Niuatoputapu island yesterday, the first outside aid for Tongan victims since the early-morning disaster two days ago.

The death toll for this remote settlement 500km north of the country’s main island, Tongatapu, is nine.

Four residents with serious injuries were flown out to Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, only yesterday because damage to Niuatoputapu’s sole airstrip meant no craft could land immediately after the disaster.

Tongan Government spokesman Alfred Soakai, who had flown over the island, said 90 per cent of homes had been destroyed and the hospital had been seriously damaged.

Two of the island’s villages, Hihifo and Falehau, bore the brunt of three tidal waves, some 6m high, which hit at three-minute intervals after the 8.3-magnitude earthquake. Vaipoa village remained relatively unharmed.

Just over 1000 people live on Niuatoputapu, which sits close to the Samoan border. It is isolated by the expensive cost of infrequent transport to the island.

That isolation has been exacerbated this week as the tsunami severed all telecommunications infrastructure.

Because aid workers were unable to fly directly to the island, a Tonga Defence Services patrol boat loaded with food, medical supplies and tents was sent north from Tongatapu, arriving about 6pm yesterday.

Journalist Pesi Fonua, who was also on the Government-chartered flight over the island, saw scenes of devastation. Coastal villages have all but disappeared, with murky water lapping at shores awash with debris.

“It looked like everything had been flushed out to sea,” said Fonua.

“The amazing thing was that we saw very few people.”

“We flew around a number of times but there was very little movement, I counted about five people.”

It was heartbreaking not being able to land, he said.

“Those people must have been wondering what on earth was happening. We could tell that they were in distress and were expecting general assistance.”

Clean water remains a critical issue. Storage tanks are either unusable or were destroyed.

A radio clothing and food drive started yesterday morning in Nuku’alofa and a French frigate, which is on a goodwill trip to the capital, has been formally asked to take supplies to Niuatoputapu.”

How you can help

Pacific Cooperation Foundation
Deposits can be made at at any Westpac branch. All the money raised will go to the Samoan Government

Red Cross
– Make a secure online donation at redcross.org.nz
– Send cheques to the Samoan Red Cross Fund, PO Box 12140, Thorndon, Wellington 6144
– Call 0900 31 100 to make an automatic $20 donation
– Make a donation at any NZ Red Cross office

ANZ bank Make a donation at any ANZ bank branch, or donate directly to the ANZ appeal account: 01 1839 0143546 00

Oxfam – Make a secure online donation at Oxfam.org.nz – Phone 0800 400 666 or make an automatic $20 donation by calling 0900 600 20

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