Rebuilding the Friendly Islands in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Gita
Five days ago, category-five Tropical Cyclone Gita swept and ravaged over the Kingdom of Tonga, my island home. While homes, buildings and towns have been partially and completely destroyed, one aspect of the 'Friendly Islands' remains intact: the heart, spirit and sense of unity of its inhabitants.
Hours before Gita devastated Tonga, Deputy Prime Minister the Honourable Semisi Sika declared a state of emergency as the island braced itself for a direct hit as Gita made her way across the Pacific. With destructive winds of 230 kilometres per hour, Tropical Cyclone Gita’s destructive path crossed through Tonga, lasting several hours between 8:00pm and 2:00am.
In its wake, more than 4,000 Tongans have been left homeless. The cyclone completely destroyed more than 171 homes, many of which were in Tonga’s most vulnerable communities. A further 1,100 homes suffered severe damage – a majority of which were left with missing roofs. Even the historic Parliament House did not stand a chance against Gita. Uprooted trees, fallen power lines and widespread flooding are just a few of the impacts of the category five cyclone. According to the British Met office, Tropical Cyclone Gita is the worst storm to pass the small nation in 60 years.
Despite the challenges present in the wake of Gita, Tongans have reacted in the only way we know how. We unite and pull together. Love is the foundation which our society is built on, and it’s in times like these that we look inward, dig deep and roll our sleeves up to do the work that’s required. We find reason to be thankful and face adversity with the spirit of resilience. We will make do with what we have and what we are given by our generous neighbouring countries.
PC: Mani Falepaini
PC: Tangata Pasifika
As Tongans abroad unite to help their loved ones at home, and as Tongans on the ground unite to move through these difficult times, we are empowered by His Majesties address to the nation on the 15th February 2018, “We shall be the first responders to any hardship that befalls our country. We shall not be idle, we can save a life, pave the way and render the assistance required”.
Elizabeth Kite is the Founder and Chair of Tonga Youth Leaders, 2017 Queens Young Leader for Tonga and 2016 One Young World Ambassador. Through Tonga Youth Leaders, Elizabeth and her team will be opening a private fund to raise money for the homes of people living with disabilities who were affected severely and lost their homes due to Tropical Cyclone Gita. Please contact her via [email protected] if you are wanting to help by donating. Learn more on her website and Facebook.
Other ways you can help rebuild the Friendly Islands:
Australia Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org.au/disaster-relief-and-recovery
New Zealand Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org.nz/donate/pacific-disaster-fund/
New Zealand Oxfam: https://www.oxfam.org.nz/donate/appeal/5024