Meanwhile, in Tonga…A State of Emergency

(See updates at bottom of post.)

Tropical Cyclone Ian has devastated the Ha’apai Islands in northern Tonga, apparently as a Category 5 hurricane (note: this is the Australian classification system, not the Saffir-Simpson scale used for the Atlantic Ocean). It has now weakened to a Category 4, per this Facebook report (French), per Google Translate:

Info Tonga : The government has declared a state of emergency.

70% of the houses and buildings of Ha’apai Islands in the north of the archipelago, where 8,000 people live, were grounded , told the media chief of the army, Satisi Vunipola .

The inhabitants of the main island of Ha’apai , Lifuka , took refuge in churches . Winds of over 200 km / h swept the coast . “All that stood on the island has been damaged , whether of buildings, crops, roads and infrastructure ,” said Ian Wilson , a senior New Zealand aid.

Tupou Ahomee Faupula of Digicel mobile phone service , said an official from the firm in the Ha’apai islands had reported massive devastation . ” He told us that it was the worst damage ever caused by cyclone ” in Tonga , the source said . “Most of the houses are demolished , roofs were swept , trees and power lines are on the ground .”

Navy Tonga , a kingdom of 170 islands with about 120,000 inhabitants , sent two officers to Ha’apai , and the Matangi Tonga news website reported that the Government was considering the possibility of seeking help from the abroad.

Since the cyclone hit Ha’apai , Australia and New Zealand have queued aircraft and emergency relief. Ian has been downgraded to category 4 Sunday. The cyclone should continue to weaken continuing its trajectory at sea.

I found this video on Ian, posted today, a few hours ago. Good background on things before it hit Tonga.

Here is their web page for this video.

From a news report:

Ian is the first category five cyclone to belt into Tonga and Ha’apai governor Tu’i Ha’angana said he could see from one side of the island to the other — “that’s how devastated it is”.

Edit, 2:07 p.m. Eastern: ProudTongans on Twitter has some images of damage from the air, about 7 hours or more old, including these:



Edit, 10:47 p.m. Eastern: Proud Tongans have quite a few damage pictures up on Twitter. No word yet on fatalities or injuries, except that one lady. This Fairfax NZ News story is pretty sad, if true:

Thousands of people are homeless in Tonga after Cyclone Ian’s weekend destruction but the island nation’s government, verging on collapse, is refusing to formally ask for international help.

The kingdom has two warring finance ministers and Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu, trying to fend off a growing political rebellion, has angrily said the country doesn’t need foreign help.

The notion of what has happened to the 7000 people on the 17 occupied islands of the 62 Ha’apai islands is still only sketchy.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion photos show several small villages completely destroyed but there are few signs of people.

Some areas show signs of severe storm surge and again there are few people in the pictures.

For the expatriate Tongan community in Auckland the political crisis has left them unable to offer formal help.

“We’ve tried through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Auckland Mayor’s Fund, and they tell us that Tonga has not asked for help,” Auckland Tongan Advisory Council community head Malino Maka said.

“The Tongan Government should be looking at the people who have suffered in Cyclone Ian, they need to get on with it,” Maka said.

The Tongan Government was giving a different picture about what had happened and was diverted by the deep political infighting.

“We don’t want to engage in Tongan politics – we want to engage with the people who need help,” Maka said.

Tear Fund chief executive Ian McInnes, who is chairman of a co-ordinating group of all major New Zealand charities including Oxfam and World Vision, said the political situation was alarming and bad timing.

“Tonga needs to get its act together and respond to the needs of its people,” McInnes said.

Cyclone Ian became a rare Category 5 hurricane on Saturday, smashing into Ha’apai, but largely bypassing Vava’u in the north and Tongatapu and its capital, Nuku’alofa, in the south.

Ian barely disturbed the intense political battle that has gripped Nuku’alofa.


Maybe the stupid politics is why this story isn’t higher on Google News. Some Tongans have clout in the US, I’ve heard. Anyway, it’s not among the top headlines – I had to search and then there weren’t any updates from earlier today…however, I did find that Fairfax NZ News story there. Glad Proud Tongans and probably others, too, are working hard to get images of the disaster out. Digicel service in Ha’apai is restored now, they say, so more and more news should be coming over the next day.

Edit, January 13, 11 a.m. Eastern: Well, the UN says it hasn’t received reports of more fatalities, thankfully. Too, this brief video via Twitter shows plenty of people among the ruins. They were incredibly lucky, overall, though it probably doesn’t seem that way to them today.

However, their government sounds pretty messed up.

Things in Tonga can be a little weird, as I once read in Tony Horwitz’s Blue Latitudes.

Categories: Random thoughts, Weather

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