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Outer Islands

New homes handed over to Niuatoputapu tsunami victims

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


Lord Tu'ivakano and Robert Jauncey opening new homes in Niuatoputapu, Tonga. 1 December 2012.

In Niuatoputapu on Saturday December 1, Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Tu'ivakano handed over 34 new houses for the people of Niuatoputapu who lost their homes during the tsunami that followed the Great Samoa-Tonga Earthquakes of 29-30 September 2009.

Supported by the World Bank, a total of 73 new houses were constructed as part of the Post-Tsunami Reconstruction Project, which has helped rebuild people's homes, infrastructure and livelihoods.

The handover ceremony in Niuatoputapu of the last 34 homes under the project, was attended by H.E. Thomas Roth, Australian High Commissioner to Tonga; Robert Jauncey, Senior Country Officer for the Pacific Islands for the World Bank and  Hon. Sosefu Fe'ao Vakata, Member of Parliament for the Niuas Constituency.

In September 2009, the remote Niua islands in the north of Tonga were struck by a great earthquake and devastating tsunami, which swept through nearly half of the main island of Niuatoputapu, killing nine people and destroying and damaging many homes, critical government infrastructure, schools, and water and sanitation systems.

Today nearly 130 affected buildings have been repaired or rebuilt, including homes, shops and community halls; water supplies have been resumed, roads have been reconstructed, with further improvements in progress, and children are studying in a new school.

“This is a real milestone for the people of Niuatoputapu who have shown their strength and resilience as they rebuild their community,” said Lord Tu’ivakano. “These homes signify a bright and safer future, and are a mark of the collective efforts of all involved – community and government and our partners.”

Robert Jauncey, Senior Country Officer for the Pacific Islands at the World Bank said he was honoured to be at the hand-over ceremony. “The Post-Tsunami Reconstruction project is immediately improving the lives of people affected by the natural disaster, but moreover helping strengthen critical infrastructure for the future.”

Hon. Sosefu Fe’ao Vakata, the Minister for Revenue and Member of Parliament for the Niuas Constituency said the Niuas were proud of the development. “After much adversity, the community is not only rebuilt but is reinvigorated – the new homes, the new school, the community centres are testament to this.”

In Niuatoputapu, the houses have been constructed on higher ground and to cyclone-resistant standards - a critical step in an area with high vulnerability to tropical cyclones and other natural hazards.

Starting in October 2010, the project was funded under a grant from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. The project was implemented by a committee chaired by the Ministry of Finance and National Planning in coordination of relevant line ministries, with complementary reconstruction activities conducted by New Zealand’s aid program, Caritas International and the Government of Japan.

The remaining homes built under the project were handed over to the community in September this year.