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Tongan tsunami victims named, 194 families homeless

Princess Pilolevu visits the disaster area in the Nuias. Photo: Tongan Minfo

Princess Pilolevu visits the disaster area in the Nuias. Photo: Tongan Minfo

Pacific.Scoop
By Josephine Latu

The Tongan government has released the names of nine victims who died on Wednesday after three large tidal waves hit the north-eastern island of Niuatoputapu in the Nuias.

They are Losalio Lefai, Sefo Lefai, Toni Lefai (child), Tina Lefai (infant), Kalolo Kivalu, Lesina Tupouto’a, Tu’ulomia Tavake, Heneli Losalu, and Lupe Pukenga.

Of the four who suffered life threatening injuries, three are in a stable condition and one under close supervision.

Families of the victims which left the main island of Tongatapu on Saturday, arrived at Niuatoputapu today on the patrol boat VOEA Savea, along with aid supplies, and a combined church service was held in memory of the victims on Sunday night.

Official surveys from Niuatoputapu report 194 families are now homeless as a result of the tsunamis, which swept 600m inland, resulting in severe damage to the island’s infrastructure, including the hospital, airport, local prison and essential water supplies.

Tsunami damage on the north-easterly island of Niuatoputapu. Photo: Tongan Minfo

Tsunami damage on the north-easterly island of Niuatoputapu. Photo: Tongan Minfo

Hihifo village, the hardest hit, has 132 homeless families. Only 75 families in Hihifo were left with their homes intact, while 109 homes were damaged.

In the village of Falehau, 32 families were left homeless, 28 had their houses damaged, and 37 escaped any damage to their homes.

In Vaipoa, 30 families are reported homeless, six families suffered damage to their houses, while 177 suffered no damage.

Princess Regent Pilolevu Tuita flew to the island on Friday, along with husband and Acting Prime Minister Lord Tuita, with other officials to personally view the damage and meet with residents.

The population is largely in “good health” with a “marked improvement in the state of shock”, according to government reports.

French aid due
The French navy ship FNS Revi also arrived in Niuatoputapu today with assistance from Australia, New Zealand, France, as well as local donations.

Government officials say 40 tonnes of clothing and food have been donated by the public so far. A radiothon held last weekend also raised more than TOP$40,000.

Medical supplies and staff are due to arrive from Tahiti and New Caledonia, while an Australian chartered aircraft provided tents, generators, hurricane lamps, Oxfam buckets, blankets and tarpaulins.

New Zealand donors have sent generators, tents, kitchen sets and first aid kits.

Government has specified certain items in “serious need”, but which have not shown up in donations so far –  including tarpaulins, water purification tablets, roofing iron and guttering, candles, biscuit crackers, water containers, washing soap, tooth paste and brushes, shoes, torches and batteries.

Josephine Latu is contributing editor of the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch project.

Source: 6471 Pacific Media Watch