7 Jan 2016

State of emergency declared to beat Sunday laws in Tonga

9:24 am on 7 January 2016

The Tongan government says one of the reasons it declared a state of emergency for Cyclone Ula so people could work on Sunday in order to assist the islands of Vava'u if necessary.


Tonga Photo: AFP

The category three storm swept to the north of Vava'u over the weekend, causing minimal damage, although a state of emergency was declared by the Prime Minister beforehand.

Paula Ma'u from the National Emergency Committee says there has been confusion over why the declaration was made.

Mr Ma'u says the government was closed because of the Christmas holidays and people also needed to be prepared to work on Sunday, something that is illegal for most people in Tonga.

He says the cyclone forecast meant Sunday was always going to be an important day to assist the northern islands.

"We couldn't do it on Saturday because of strong winds and rough seas, especially here in Tongatapu and Ha'apai, not until Sunday afternoon. But because we have a Sunday law, that's why we decided to recommend to the Prime Minister to declare a state of emergency in order for us, the workers, to prepare for deployment."

The state of emergency was lifted on Tuesday morning.