Niuatoputapu disaster claims nine lives
NINE people have been confirmed dead at Niuatoputapu tsunami disaster which struck the island early on Wednesday morning, September 30 Lt Commander Solomone Savelio announced in a media briefing this morning, Oct 2 at Sene, the Tonga Defence Service headquarter.
Solomone said that the TDS patrol boat Voea Neiafu arrived at Niuatoputapu yesterday evening, and they have set up a Command Base at the Niuatoputapu High School and a Medical centre at the Hihifo Free Wesleyan Church Community hall. He said that doctors and nurses went up on the Voea Neiafu, but medical supplies were flown up yesterday on a 7-seater chartered aircraft.
The Director of Health, Dr Siale 'Akau'ola said that four critically injured persons who were flown down to Nuku'alofa on the chartered aircraft were admitted to intensive care at Vaiola Hospital, and today three of the patients have recovered and the fourth patient is in a more stable condition.
The four patients included a couple, Paea Kuma 24, and his wife Veteange 'Akau 38, and their four-year-old son Nasio 'Akau. The fourth patient is Sulifa Losalu 65.
French ship arrives with supplies for Niuatoputapu
REVI, a French Navy Ship is the first to arrive in Nuku'alofa to assist in transporting much needed supplies to Niuatoputapu following the tsunami disaster that struck the island on Wednesday, September 30.
The ship is expected to depart for Niuatoputapu tomorrow afternoon with 2,500 meal ready and transporting cargo such as water, food, clothing, and shelter equipment.
Lieutenant de Vaisseau Thierry Jaouen said upon arriving in Nuku'alofa this morning, they were en route from Noumea on their first Goodwill Visit to Tonga.
On their way they were contacted by the French Ambassador in Fiji about Tonga's request for assistance to transport much needed supplies to the outer island of Niuatoputapu.
The French Government approved the request and they are happy to be here to help Tonga and the tsunami victims in the outer island, said the Lieutenant.
Based in Papeete, the high tow ship is 1,500 tonnes with 30 officers consisting only of two women. It has a speed of 14.5kts with up to 5,000 mileages and has onboard a crane and water canon.
Its capabilities include towing in high seas, transporting equipment and can retrieve underwater valuable parcels and buoys.
At this stage it has not been confirmed when they will depart back to Pape'ete since their goodwill visit has been diverted into assisting Operation Niuatoputapu.
OPERATION NIUATOPUTAPU – DAY 2 October 1, 2009
From the Prime Minister's Office, Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu, October 1, 2009. At 6:50am, Wednesday 30th September 2009, the island of Niuatoputapu was struck by a 8.3 magnitude earthquake which lasted 20 minutes.
Five minutes after the earthquake the island of Niuatoputapu was hit by the first of 3 large tidal waves at 3 minute intervals measuring at about 6 meters.
The waves moved inland about 600 meters. The largest and the strongest was the last wave.
90% of the houses on the island have been destroyed with the villages of Hihifo and Falehau being the worst affected. The third village of Vaipoa was relatively unharmed.
There are 7 persons confirmed dead with 3 missing. The majority of the survivors have sustained minor injuries with 4 who are in a critical condition. The survivors have requested as a matter of urgency water, food, medical supplies, clothing, shelter and bedding.
They also requested government radio programmes of comfort and reassurance last night because many were afraid and in state of shock. They were still sheltering in the hills above the villages.
All of the island’s water storage tanks have been either rendered unusable or destroyed completely.
All government schools were cancelled yesterday (30 Sept 09). A special Cabinet meeting was convened at 10:00am to work on the immediate government response to the natural disaster. Cabinet also met again this morning.
A plane was chartered to fly to Niutoputapu to carry out an aerial assessment at 3:30pm yesterday. They have reported considerable damage to the island particularly the administrative centre and most populated village of Hihifo.
The Hon. Acting Prime Minister, Lord Tuita made a public announcement last night on television and radio informing the nation of the natural disaster and the actions taken by government.
The patrol boat VOEA Neiafu departed last night at 7:00pm for Niuatoputapu with emergency supplies, equipment and personnel. This includes a team a medical team capable of carrying out emergency surgery and qualified trauma counselors. It is scheduled to arrive at Niuatoputapu at 6.00pm this evening.
Pending the condition of the runway at Niuatoputapu a special flight will depart Vava’u this morning at 9:00am to evacuate the 4 persons who are in a critical condition. (It has been reported that the aircraft landed safely on Niuatoputapu at around 12:00 noon today)
A French frigate is expected to arrive in Nuku’alofa on Friday (2 Oct 09) on a goodwill visit. Arequest has been made to the French authorities in New Caledonia to allow the ship to sail to Niuatoputapu with further emergency supplies. If that request is approved the French frigate will depart Nuku’alofa for Niuatoputapu on Saturday (3 Oct 09.
A radio fund-raising appeal is currently being carried out in Nuku’alofa today to raise funds and supplies for the people of Niuatoputapu. Vehicles have also been arranged to travel to all the villages of Tongatapu to collect food, clothing, bedding and other supplies that the public are willing to donate.
A daily media briefing will be held at 11:00am at the office of the National Disaster Management Office, from today onwards. Operation Niuatoputapu is being coordinated by Col. Siamelie Latu of the Tonga Defence Service.