The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Pacific is deploying an information management and mapping specialist to Tonga to support the Government’s response following Severe Tropical Cyclone Ian.
The Category 5 storm, with winds of around 200 kilometres per hour, travelled near Vava’u in the early hours of yesterday morning before making landfall over Ha’apai in the afternoon. Early reports from the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) indicate devastation to the eastern islands of Ha’apai, with one confirmed death on Lifuka, and significant damage to homes, infrastructure and fruit-bearing trees.
Initial damage assessments have been carried out with an estimated 70 per cent of homes either damaged or destroyed in Ha’pai. Around 2,000 people are currently in 11 evacuation centres. The restoration of power and communication is a key priority, in addition to emergency shelter, water, sanitation and food.
“Following a direct request from the NEMO, we are providing an information management officer to support the Government in providing effective humanitarian response to people affected by the cyclone,” said Mr Sune Gudnitz, Head of OCHA’s Regional Office for the Pacific.
Information management involves gathering reliable data on the location of people in need and sharing the informatoion with partners to ensure effective and timely humanitarian assistance. Initial needs assessments are being carried out today and will be used by OCHA to develop a range of information products, such as maps and contact lists, to inform relief efforts.
While a direct request for international assistance has not been made, the NEMO has
also accepted bilateral support from New Zealand, Australia, Red Cross and nongovernmental organizations.
OCHA, as well as the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT), are on standby to support the government with coordination, sectoral assessments and assistance. Tomorrow OCHA will meet with PHT cluster coordinators from shelter, food security, health and nutrition, protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene to outline the range of technical assistance that can be provided to Tonga if requested.