Tonga's Par­lia­ment flat­tened af­ter coun­try hit by worst cy­clone in 60 years

Fiji Sun - - Comment - JONATHAN PEARLMAN | THE TELE­GRAPH Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­ • Ar­ti­cle pub­lished in The Tele­graph

Adev­as­tat­ing cy­clone has de­stroyed Tonga’s cen­tury-old Par­lia­ment build­ing af­ter the Pa­cific na­tion was hit by winds with speeds of more than 233km/hr.

Cy­clone Gita, the worst storm to hit Tonga in 60 years and the strong­est ever recorded in the cap­i­tal of Nuku'alofa, lev­elled houses and tore roofs off build­ings, in­clud­ing that of the me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal agency’s of­fice. The his­toric weath­er­board Par­lia­ment build­ing was flat­tened, throw­ing the gov­ern­ment into dis­ar­ray.

An MP, Lord Fusitu'a, said some lo­cals in the strongly Chris­tian na­tion sug­gested the de­struc­tion was an act of God and sent a mes­sage to the cur­rent gov­ern­ment.

“There are peo­ple say­ing, sym­bol­i­cally, what is the mes­sage be­ing sent to the coun­try,” he told ABC Ra­dio.

“Is the cur­rent leg­is­la­ture do­ing its job? Is that why the build­ing was flat­tened?”

Ex­press­ing sad­ness at the loss of the his­toric build­ing, he added: "Suc­ces­sive leg­is­la­tures over the years have sug­gested build­ing a new Par­lia­ment House, and I guess that'll be a ne­ces­sity now.”

The cy­clone has left tens of thou­sands of peo­ple with­out power as Ton­gat­apu, the main is­land, ex­pe­ri­enced a black­out. Thirty-three peo­ple were taken to hos­pi­tal and three suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries.

"It was a par­tic­u­larly bad night," Gra­ham Kenna, from Tonga’s Na­tional Emer­gency Of­fice, told Ra­dio New Zealand.

"I've been in­volved in dis­as­ter re­sponse for 30-plus years and it was the worst sit­u­a­tion I've been in. A lot of the land­mark build­ings are ex­tremely badly dam­aged or even de­stroyed, the land­mark tree... near the palace, has been de­stroyed... It’s quite a bad sit­u­a­tion.”

The cy­clone, a cat­e­gory four, was not as bad as feared and did not reach cat­e­gory five.

But it caused heavy dam­age in the na­tion of 176 is­lands. Only 40 is­lands are in­hab­ited but the na­tion’s build­ings are rel­a­tively poorly pre­pared for cy­clones.

“The wind was ter­ri­fy­ing, it was tear­ing over­head and we could hear roofs be­ing lifted,” Mary Fonua, from the on­line news web­site Matangi Tonga, told Ra­dio New

Zealand. “Amaz­ingly, emer­gency ser­vices were still go­ing out.”


The flat­tened Par­lia­ment House in Tonga's cap­i­tal of Nuku'alofa af­ter Cy­clone Gita hit the coun­try. Photo:

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