Tonga cyclone update

Tongan schools, roads and ports are set to be better protected against future cyclone threats after the World Bank bolstered the country’s climate and disaster resilience.

Nearly three in every four of Tonga’s 150 schools were damaged or destroyed from just one cyclone in the climatic phenomenon that annually strikes most of the Pacific islands.

The carnage from Cyclone Gita affected 23,000 students, which accounts for more than 20 per cent of the kingdom’s population, while damage to infrastructure cost $US164 million (TOP353 million).

Tropical Cyclone Harold in 2020, Gita in 2018 and Ian in 2014 has left Tonga more vulnerable amid the effects from global warming in the region.

But the World Bank board recognised the growing concerns, delivering two projects that includes enhancing the safety and resilience of selected schools to ensure their buildings can now better withstand the impacts of future disasters and provide safe and secure classrooms for students.

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The Tonga climate resilient transport project will finance rehabilitation or upgrading of 45 kilometres of road across four of the country’s centres, improving the safety and resilience of infrastructure at six airports and the enhancement at its two ports for a cost of $US38 million (TOP87 million).

Backers of the project say the support will strengthen Tonga’s capacity to respond faster, and more effectively, to future disasters and emergencies.

cyclone gita tonga
Cyclone Gita leaves a roof blown off from its ferocity as Tongan residents survey the damage. Picture: TongaNow

But a further $US15m (TOP34 million) has been designated to the Tonga safe and resilient schools project that builds on work undertaken through the World Bank’s Pacific resilience program to support the work to improve the resilience of Tongan schools.

The schools project includes new and improved classrooms, school halls, dormitories and teachers’ housing, as well as critical water, sanitation and hygiene facilities including toilets, hand-washing facilities and clean drinking water.

“Tonga is one of the most at-risk countries in the world to climate change and natural disasters, with the remoteness and the size of its islands making it even more vulnerable to multiple social and economic shocks,” Stephen Ndegwa, World Bank country director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, said.

“Through these two projects – both of which are significant in scope – we are reiterating our long-term commitment to supporting Tonga’s efforts to build its resilience and ensure it can respond better and with confidence to drive effective recovery from the impacts of future natural disasters.”

Both projects are funded through grants from the international development association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s most in-need countries.

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 87 projects totalling US$2.18 billion in commitments in a range of sectors.

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