25 Feb 2010

Tonga accused of slow response to Cyclone Rene devastation

6:15 pm on 25 February 2010

The Tongan Advisory Council in New Zealand says the authorities in Tonga have taken too long to respond to last week's cyclone, which is now known to have destroyed or damaged more than 700 homes.

Disaster officials have yet to complete their assessment of Cyclone Rene, but the latest reports say 95 homes were destroyed and 370 damaged in the island group of Vava'u alone.

Tonga's disaster management office says its likely to ask the government to seek international assistance as it does not have enough tents or tarpaulin, and needs help for the agricultural sector which suffered extensive crop damage.

But the head of the Tongan Advisory Council, Melino Maka, says the government is reluctant to seek international help after initially saying it wasn't needed.

"More than a week since the cyclone hit Tonga, we only just start to see the information trickling in from the national emergency office in Nukualofa. I think its poor on the government's part because people can't wait forever."

Melino Maka says he's been inundated with calls from people who want to help but they can't act because of the lack of information.