02 February, 2011. In a special cabinet meeting convened on Monday 31 January 2011 to consider and respond to the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Wilma, His Majesty's Cabinet established the Cyclone Wilma Relief Fund.
As a matter of urgency Cabinet approved the allocation of TOP 1 million to the relief fund from the National Emergency Fund to address the pressing needs of those affected by Cyclone Wilma, as well as assisting the National Emergency Coordination Committee (NECC) in its disaster recovery efforts.
Monitoring of the tropical, depression, disturbance and then cyclone began on 19 January 2011 by the Tonga Metrological Service. The NECC housed under the Ministry of Works was activated on Saturday 22 January 2011 to monitor closely and forecast the movement of TC Wilma and respond accordingly.
Cyclone Wilma made landfall in Tonga on Tuesday 25 January passing close to Vava'u and intensifying from a Category 1 to a Category 3 cyclone. The islands of the Ha'apai group bore the burnt of the cyclone leaving 86 homes damaged or destroyed, destroying 75% of food crops and destroying all of the seasonal fruit trees. Damage caused by TC Wilma is estimated to be TOP 5.5 million.
Vital infrastructure such as roads and wharves sustained considerable damage. In addition some of the schools damaged in the cyclone were forced to make temporary arrangements. The electrical network sustained heavy damage with the provider Tonga Power Ltd working hard to address the damage.
The cyclone coincided with high tide causing a storm surge which affected the low lying islands, damaging Matafonua Resort on Foa and partially destroying the historic of cemetery Mala'e Lahi on the island of ‘Uiha.
The patrol boats VOEA Pangai and Neiafu were dispatched immediately to Ha'apai to provide urgent assistance to those affected and conduct damage assessment. On board the patrol boats were personnel from the NECC, Tonga Defence Services and Tonga Red Cross.
The trustees of the relief fund are the Hon. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works, Samiu Vaipulu, the Hon. Minister for Health and the Chairman of the Ha'apai Development Committee, ‘Uliti Uata and the Hon. Minister for Finance Sunia Fili. The relief fund is administered by the NECC.
The Hon. Ministers for Works and Health will travel to Ha'apai on Thursday 3 February 2011 to assist in the relief efforts and meet with the community.
The disaster short term and long term recovery efforts headed by the NECC in collaboration with line government ministries, the Tonga Red Cross and partner organisations continue.