Tongan students say Cyclone Gita left destroyed homes but united their communities

Written by: 
Denali Loflin

With winds of more than 230km/h, tropical Cyclone Gita is the worst cyclone to pass so close to Tonga’s main islands in 60 years, according to The cyclone left significant damages and injuries in the Kingdom of Tonga since it hit on Feb. 12.


“My family called me on Sunday night and told me there was a warning. When they called, I could hear the wind on the phone. It sounded so scary even through the phone. The wind was blowing so hard. They’ve never experienced a cyclone this strong; trees were already down, if this was the beginning, they couldn’t imagine what it would be like when it hit,” said Kesaia Vakalahi, a Tongan sophomore.


Vakalahi, an interdisciplinary studies major, reported, “The cyclone hit the main island, which is where my family lives. Most of the houses were blown away and knocked down, but my family and our houses are okay. The only damage we had was our mango and banana trees.


According to Seini Talamai, an accounting sophomore, Gati crushed the doors and windows of a lot of houses. “We all stayed awake until 4 in the morning worried and scrolling through Facebook. Families were calling for help because their house was going down, and it made us worry about our families. The electricity and water has been on and off but people are doing everything they can to help.


“The hardest part will be a month or so from now. Most won’t be able to work, and after some time it might get worse. People will be trying to avoid dengue fever from flooding with all the flies and mosquitos.”


Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga, is where the cyclone hit, according to Vaiolupe Ledua, a  business finance sophomore, whose mom and brother still live there. “I got a message from my mom saying that our house wasn’t hit and was still standing, only our shed was knocked down. The neighbor’s houses were destroyed and knocked down completely.”


Tuipulotu, a freshman majoring in accounting, stated, “My family stayed at our house. It is in a low part of the island and was not affected much because it’s far away from the ocean.


“When I called home, they told me how it was getting bad outside, all the trees fell down, and our neighbors’ roof was taken.”


Talamai said her family’s and husband’s family’s houses weren’t badly damaged. “The electricity is down everywhere, and schools are closed. Most of the houses were flooded but are still standing. A breadfruit tree fell on my husband’s family’s house, but it only hit the veranda, so the rest of the house was okay.”


Vakalahi mentioned her family made efforts made to preserve the houses. She said, “They put things on the house to make sure it was protected, and went to the chapel for shelter. Around 2 or 3 in the morning, my brother went to check house, and it was still okay, but the house across started to tear. Most of the houses especially the ones on the coast were flooded.”


Vakalahi confirmed that there are efforts made to help the people in Tonga. She stated, “Water is the main problem. Right now there is no electricity, so hopefully the water won’t run out. My brother sent money to help them buy food and water, and things that don’t require electricity.”


The people are doing a lot of clean up, Tuipulotu said. “It’s not even half done, but at home everybody just came together. The town officer put together a team to go around to check and focus on families and houses that need it most. Some people whose houses were affected stayed at the chapel.”


Talamai relayed, “Everyone is helping everyone. After the storm they all gathered as a village and worked as a community to start from one end and clean everything up. On the news, the soldiers helped clear the roads and trees. Even the king went around to reach out and distribute water.


“I was surprised. I think it’s sad, but it’s good to see people going around and helping out. Other aids are going to help but it’s important to see them doing what they can.”

Date Published: 
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Last Edited: 
Saturday, February 24, 2018