Ha’apai, Tonga, December 17, 2014 – The Ha’apai island group has been a hive of activity since construction on houses for vulnerable families started. Thirty out of the 200 houses have been completed and families started moving into their new two-room, cyclone-resistant homes in October 2014.
Under the Cyclone Ian Reconstruction and Climate Resilience Project, a joint World Bank and Tonga government initiative, up to 350 one-room houses are also set to be constructed with building contracts awarded to two local companies in December 2014. Damaged houses will be repaired and existing houses will be reinforced to withstand future cyclones.
Swift action to assist Tonga
The Category 5 cyclone was the most powerful storm ever recorded in Tonga and had devastating impacts on the Ha’apai island group. An estimated 5,500 people, approximately 70% of the Ha’apai population, were affected. Most of the 1,100 houses and many of the public facilities were damaged or destroyed. Fourteen people were injured and one person died.
Within two weeks of the cyclone, the government received $1.27 million from the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance pilot program, which the country joined in 2013. The pilot program provides participating Pacific Island countries with risk insurance from natural disasters such as cyclones, tsunamis, and earthquakes.
This payment was the first received by any country under the pilot and allowed swift action for on-the-ground support for the Ha’apai people.
“A week after the cyclone, the World Bank team along with the government visited Ha’apai,” said Havea Tu’iha’angana, Governor of Ha’apai. “They started by carrying out surveys and collecting data on damaged houses. I am very thankful for this project because it’s very quick.”
Another $12 million in grants and low interest loans were provided through the World Bank’s Crisis Response Window (CRW). The funds were received within four months of Cyclone Ian, making it the fastest ever payout through the CRW. This was complemented by $2 million in funds from the government. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery provided a grant of $ 1.8 million to help Tonga prepare for future disasters.