Cyclone Gita continues its destruction
Cyclone Gita has continued its destructive path across the Pacific, leaving a trail of devastation in Tonga.
Māori-Tongan Early Kahungunu Baron-Afeaki has been monitoring the storm for the past 24 hours.
“It's the first time I've ever heard family members talking about being frightened. As a culture, the Tongans look at hurricanes as something that happens that they're not frightened or intimidated by them. But this time, it's the first time I've ever heard men and grown-up women talking about being frightened.”
Reports that have reached Te Karere, have advised that 75% of homes in capital Nuku’alofa have been destroyed, communications are down in some areas, and electricity is also down.
Barron-Afeaki says Tonga had three days to prepare for the storm.
“Normal Tongans, the first thing you do, you pick off any coconuts from any trees close by to your property because they turn into missiles in great winds. And then another thing you do is look at any of the big trees around you and try and cut down if you can branches that threaten your property. You do things like disconnecting your water into your tanks for rainwater because the salt content contaminates the water and we're very close to the ocean. And under the great pressures of those storms the salt water is picked up and thrown onto your roof and if you don't disconnect it you poison your water.”
However, Tonga's preparation can only do some much in the face of nature's rage.
“Re-roofing, building houses. If there was a count of 30 alone by my family this morning, driving one road, I shudder to think what kind of rebuild is there. Most of them are not insured, so they're going to have to reach out.”
But Barron-Afeaki believes Tonga’s greatest saviours will be the people themselves.
“One thing that I love about being Tongan is that the whānau and that's the locals but also the 150,000+ overseas will continue their remittances. That is the greatest aid that Tonga will get. You can get governmental aid from New Zealand-Australia but the thrust of it will come from its own people.”
Forecasters predict the storm will now head towards Fiji and could reach New Zealand.