Tonga prepares for possible cyclone | Pacific Beat

Tonga prepares for possible cyclone

Tonga prepares for possible cyclone

Updated 14 January 2013, 16:58 AEDT

Tonga is gearing up for a possible cyclone.

A tropical depression is heading for the centre of the island chain, and forecasters say it may develop into a cyclone in the next day or so.

Tonga's acting prime minister, Samiu Vaipulu, says the government is making preparations in case the worst does happen.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Tonga's acting prime minister, Samiu Vaipulu

VAIPULU: At the moment, it is still a tropical depression and it's not really confirmed, because it's not yet a tropical cyclone so far. However, we've called our National Emergency Committee, we met this morning and we will be meeting again at four this afternoon with the National Emergency Operational Committee to see how it goes and what preparations that we need to do. However, we have started announcing in the radio and TV a warning and what the people should do.

HILL: If this does turn into a tropical depression, do we know which parts of Tonga it might affect?

VAIPULU: At the moment, our northern most island of Niuafo'ou, has been cancelled and the very last information I had, it was about 445 kilometres away from Vava'u, but according to our information this morning, the route was going probably to Ha'apai, but it was not confirmed yet.

HILL: Do we know how bad this storm is expected to be, what category it's expected to grow into if it does become a cyclone?

VAIPULU: By the looks of it, it's travelling at 19 kilometres an hour, so, so far it's not that big a cyclone, but it's not a cyclone yet. It is still a depression.

HILL; So what kind of preparations is the Tongan Government making for this and what kind of preparations are you urging people in the likely affected areas to take themselves?

VAIPULU: Oh, we will look into that this afternoon at four with our National Operations this afternoon, which consists of the Police, Defence, Health and all these ministries, we will look at our strategy this afternoon and by then, we should know how this depression is travelling.

HILL: Are people in Tonga being kept in touch with the weather information? Are they getting all the information they need themselves to make their own preparations?

VAIPULU: We started last night on the weather information, that was Sunday and we are going through and by four o'clock, this afternoon, when we activate our National Operations, we would then have the two serving telephone companies that we start giving credits to the village officers in all the villages in Ha'apai and Vava'u so we can get reports from them as of four o'clock onwards.

HILL: You've seen the devastation that Cyclone Evan caused in Samoa and then after that in Fiji. So are you concerned about the damage that this storm might create in Ha'apai and Vava'u if it does hit?

VAIPULU: Yes, that is why we've got our National Committee to start looking into how we can tackle all these things and get our people informed.

HILL: People in Tonga have a pretty good idea of what to do when a cyclone approaches already, don't they though, to pick up all the bits of rubbish in the backyard, especially corrugated iron and certainly obviously don't go out fishing?

VAIPULU: Exactly. We've started notifying that and we're starting to identify evacuation centres which we will do at four. We'll start announcing which places to go to and things like that if this develops into a tropical cyclone.


Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill


Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.