Heed warnings and prepare now, Minister says

Hon Poasi Tei stressing a point this morning at the NEMC meeting at the NEMO office in Nuku’alofa. Photo: EVIRO NEWS

Nuku’alofa – January 17, 2020: 12.30pm (MEIDECC): Everyone must heed warnings and the advise given out by the Tonga MET and NEMO as Tonga prepares for Cyclone Tino, the Minister of MEIDECC Hon Poasi Tei said in Nuku’alofa this morning.

Chairing the National Emergency Management Committee (NEMC) at the NEMO Office Hon Tei said it is important that everyone takes action accordingly and follow the advise.

He said this during the first NEMC in preparation for Cyclone Tino, a category 1 cyclone currently hovering over the Northern Division of Fiji, close to the island Vanua Levu.

Concerns were raised during the meeting by some members on the level of adherence to warning by members of the communities around Tonga.

Director Tonga MET Ofa Faanunu (eft) amd Director NEMO Mafua at the NEMC meeting this morning. Photo: ENVIRO NEWS

Hon Tei said that it was critical that everyone takes heed of the warnings already issued and those that will be issued in the coming days.

“This is very important and this must be stressed to the people everywhere in Tonga, that there is a cyclone on its way and that we must heed the warnings and prepare accordingly,” Hon Tei said.

“Those mariners who normally go out to see in small fishing boats must stop that now because of the risks as the sea is going to get rougher. They should instead look at securing their boats and preparing their families.

“Members of the public should stop going to the waterfront to swim in the sea because we don’t know what can happen.

“Those in low lying areas need to start preparing to evacuate their homes because with the heavy rain will come flooding.

“We need to get families ready with their food stock, water and the essentials because if the cyclone gets to a certain stage Tonga Power Limited will turn off the water supply and there might also be cuts to water supplies in some areas.”

Members o the NEMC including Army and Police officers at the NEMC meetign this morning. Photo: ENVIRO NEWS

Hon Tei said that it is critical that people prepare now when it is still time.

The Director of Meteorology Ofa Fa’anunu told the NEMC this morning that Cyclone Tinos is expected to develop into a Category 2 cyclone as it moves towards Tonga.

Mr Fa’anunu said their prediction is that Cyclone Tino will be in Tonga’s waters by Saturday morning.

He said the cyclone could also increase to Category 3.

“We are tracking its movement closely and liaisng with the Fiji Meteorology on the movement,” Mr Fa’anunu said.

“As it moves closer to us the prediction is it will increase to Category 2 and there is also a likelihood that it can increase further to Category 3.”

He added that the islands of Tongatapu and ‘Eua are in direct line of the current cyclone track with Ha’apai also getting some serious impacts.

Director NEMO Mafua-‘i-Vai’utukakau Maka told the meeting that the National Emergency Operation Centre has already been activated and is also working with all stakeholders including Tonga Police Force, His Majesty’a Armed Forces, Tonga Red Cross, Tonga Fire, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ church.

“We are working closely on ensuring that everything is ready for the two Niu’as, Ha’apai, Tongatapu and ‘Eua,” he said.

“And the district emergency committees have already been activated as well and they are working on the ground.”

Members of the NEMC at the meeting this morning. Photo: ENVIRO NEWS

Both the NEMO Operation Centre and the Tonga Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre at Fua’amotu (MeT Service) were activated at 11:00am yesterday. (Thursday, January 16).

The Chief Executive Officer for MEIDECC, Mr Paula Ma’u added that messages sent out to members of the pubic now must be consistent and continue to re-emphasise the issues raised by the Hon Minister.

“We have to continue to re-emphasise the importance of people following the advise given and preparing for the worst when there is still time,” he added.

Mr Ma’u said that a tropical cyclone warning is now inforce for all of Tonga, which means everyone must be prepared and take action now.

Meanwhile, Mr Fa’anunu said a gale warning remains inforce for the Niuas land areas and coastal waters and is now inforce for Vava’u, Ha’apai,Ttongatapu, ‘Eua land areas and coastal waters plus Tele-ki-tonga and Tele-ki-tokelau coastal waters. .
A heavy rain warning and flash flood advisory remain inforce for the Niuas land areas and is now inforce for Vava’u, Ha’apai, Tongatapu and  ‘Eua land areas.
A heavy damaging swell and small craft advisory remains inforce for all of Tonga’s coastal waters.

Tropical Cyclone Tino (category 1), on its current track, is expected to lie at about 555km west of niuafo’ou at 1:00pm this afternoon. A strong to gale force winds will affect the Niuas and the rest of Tonga starting today.

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