Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Tropical Cyclone Ian victim named

Pangai Hospital, Ha'apai Group. Photo / NZDF
Pangai Hospital, Ha'apai Group. Photo / NZDF

Tongan authorities have named the person killed by Tropical Cyclone Ian, after the category 4 cyclone brought winds of up to 270km/h as it passed over the Pacific Island nation.

Kalolaine Paongo, of Pangai, was killed when the cyclone hit the main island of Lifuka in Ha'apai on Saturday.

Tonga Police confirmed that she suffered a severe injury on one of her legs when she was struck by a piece of a tin roof and died later in hospital.

Initial assessments indicated that the northern part of the Ha'apai group of islands was the most badly affected, with damage to housing and infrastructure including water, telecommunications and power, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

Local authorities had estimated up to 70 per cent of housing on two islands had been destroyed or damaged.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully yesterday announced that New Zealand would make $50,000 immediately available to respond to specific requests for assistance.

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Tonga travelled to Ha'apai today to view the extent of the damage and assess what types of further assistance, if required, may be most useful

A New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion had completed an aerial damage assessment on behalf of the Tongan Government and was expected to return to New Zealand today.

There are 146 New Zealanders registered with the ministry as being in Tonga, but to date there had been no requests for consular assistance from Kiwis in affected areas.

Transport infrastructure including roads, ports and airports are operational and relief supplies are being distributed.

Oxfam New Zealand spokeswoman Lucy Oakshott earlier said the lack of communication was making it extremely difficult to know how bad the situation was.

"We can't get hold of anyone. We're well established there and we have lots of contacts but we can't get hold of anyone.''

It was anticipated water and sanitation would be high on the list of priorities and Oxfam had an engineer ready to assist.

"Ha'apai gets a lot of their water from wells and what happens in situations like this is the sea rises up and it goes into the water supply and contaminates it,'' Ms Oakshott said.

* Oxfam is accepting donations for its rapid response emergency fund online at www.oxfam.org.nz, by phone 0800 600 700, or text HELP to 4847 for an automatic $3 donation.

- APNZ

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