Tonga needs comprehensive New Zealand aid in the wake of Cyclone Gita. The cyclone, which struck Tonga on Monday night New Zealand time is currently veering southwest having missed Fiji and brushed the outer islands. Gita has strengthened to a full Category 5 system. It had sustained winds of 230 kilometres per hour as it passed over Tonga, with gusts reaching 278 kilometres per hour.
So far New Zealand and Australia are the nations to have offered aid to Tonga. Other countries are likely to join the relief effort once the extent of the damage becomes clear.
When a cyclone hits a Pacific island nation one of the first reactions is to get a surveillance aircraft – normally a P3K Orion, a Hercules or B-757 – to fly over and check the damage. An Orion aircraft flew over on Tuesday and reported widespread damage.
Tonga knows it can only help itself so far in situations like these. However, closing on Sunday for religious purposes knowing that the worst Cyclone in potentially living memory is bearing down on the country is beyond silly. But only the people of Tonga can sort those domestic issues out. It also needs to understand that aid packages are not made for lining the pockets of Members of Parliament or people of the Royal Family.
All that put aside, what Tonga needs now from New Zealand, is a comprehensive aid package. I am not talking a $5 million aid package or such, but something like a $50 million package dispersed through a reputable organisation such as the New Zealand Red Cross. That is about $11.00 for each New Zealander. People might balk at the amount of money I am suggesting, but it is not every day a little island nation like Tonga suffers a direct hit from a Category 5 cyclone.
It is easier for money to be donated to the Red Cross and for them to source what equipment, food, water, medicine, shelter and so forth that is needed. Well meaning donations of food, clothing can often cause all sorts of problems because people do not give much thought to the types of clothing or where it is headed. Food that needs to be prepared is not much use unless it can be taken to a canteen with a functional water and power supply
If you want to donate to the Tonga relief at the New Zealand Red Cross, you can do so here.