A tree in Tonga that was damaged by Cyclone Gita, 18 February 2018. Tongan farms were devastated by Cyclone Gita. Photo: Newshub

By Mitch McCann
18 February 2018

(Newshub) – A week ago, Tongans were bracing themselves for what was to be the most destructive cyclone in the island's history.

But amid concerns around health and housing, officials now fear for the country's agricultural sector, which took a massive hit during the storm.

David Soaki has farmed his land since the 1980s, growing watermelon, squash and peanuts. He lost 80 percent of his crops - and thousands of dollars - when Cyclone Gita passed through.

He told Newshub the loss was "very, very bad".

"I think it will take six months to recover because we will have to replant, and it'll take another three months for harvesting."

Mr Soaki has hired children from the evacuation centre his family are living in. They've been tasked with collecting the watermelons that haven't gone rotten, and taking them to the market in the hopes of making some money.

Some 80 percent of Tongan households are involved in agriculture, and it remains a key driver of the economy. When Cyclone Gita passed through earlier this week, it wiped out crop farms right across the country.

Farmers will take a long time to bounce back - a concern also shared by the national emergency management office.

"We're hoping that we can buy some of this food for these people which will give them some money to continue on with rebuilding their farms," Graham Kenna told Newshub.

Mr Soaki is hoping for a change of fortune.

"[I'm] very worried because I have watermelon I'm supposed to be harvesting, but now it's rotten because of a lot of rain, and I will see what I can do just to cover the costs." [more]

Tongan farmers hit hard by Cyclone Gita

Satellite view of Cyclone Gita moving away from Tonga, 12 February 2018. It is the strongest cyclone to pass so close to the main islands of Tonga in the modern record (at least 60 years). Photo: Met Office Storms

By Eleanor Ainge Roy
12 February 2018

(The Guardian) -- The islands of Tonga in the South Pacific have been devastated by Tropical Cyclone Gita with winds of 230km/h flattening parts of Parliament House and causing significant damage and injuries across the kingdom.

Gita hit Tonga around 8pm on Monday night and peaked between 11pm and 2am, slamming on to the south coast of the main island of Tongatapu, bringing down electricity lines, smashing churches and levelling fruit trees and crops vital to the island’s livelihood.

At its peak, winds reached 233km/h – far stronger than predicted, despite Gita not reaching a category five storm as anticipated.

According to the British Met office, Gita is the worst cyclone to pass so close to Tonga’s main islands in 60 years, and communications were lost overnight as Gita ripped the roof off the Tonga meteorological office as well as taking the national broadcaster off air for a time.

Graham Kenna from Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office told Radio New Zealand the damage was widespread and severe, and could be the worst in the outer islands where information was slow to obtain.

“I’ve been involved in disaster responses for 30 plus years and it’s the worst situation I have been in,” Kenna said.

“A lot of the landmark buildings are extremely badly damaged or even destroyed, the landmark tree … near the palace, has been been destroyed … it’s quite a bad situation.” [more]

Cyclone Gita: Tonga devastated by worst storm in 60 years



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