23 Mar 2018

Australia announces post-Gita assistance to Tonga

3:10 pm on 23 March 2018

Australia has announced a $US 8 million package to Tonga for assistance in recovery and reconstruction efforts following Cyclone Gita.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The tropical cyclone hit Tonga in mid-February, damaging almost 4,000 houses and leaving 60,000 people without power.

The assistance funding was jointly announced by Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, and Minister for International Development, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

The two ministers flew to Tonga yesterday for talks with the government of Akilisi Pohiva.

The package is aimed at helping restore community infrastructure such as schools and water supplies, and support farmers whose crops were devastated.

It brings to $US 10.8 million the total value of Australian support to Tonga in response to the cyclone.

A statement from the two ministers pointed out that the first Australian Defence Force flight arrived within 24 hours of Cyclone Gita hitting Tonga.

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Photo: AFP

Since then Australia has delivered over 135 tonnes of humanitarian supplies such as kitchen goods, emergency shelters, and hygiene and dengue-testing kits.

"We have observed the positive impact of Australia's assistance, including the outstanding work of electrical lines technicians made available by Australian energy companies," the statement read.

Canberra said that Australian technicians, working alongside counterparts from Tonga and New Zealand, had played a critical role in restoring power to more than 90 per cent of affected premises.

"In February, Tongan authorities estimated that without external assistance restoration of power would take up to three months. Working together over five weeks, this job is now nearly complete."

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