Cyclone Gita not far from Tonga sports administrator's mind

Fruit and vegetables are still a scarcity in Tonga, and some people continue living in tents even well over a year after Cyclone Gita smashed the small island nation last February.

Elisabeth Lalahi, Team’s Va’a Tonga Manager said her nation is still recovering from Gita, which was the worst storm in 60 years according to the British Met office. 

During that storm, the Parliament building was flattened by winds of 230 kilometres and higher. Communication was down overnight and the meteorological offices and national broadcasters were taken out too.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer about her experiences of the climate crisis, Ms. Lalahi said the weather is the most obvious change happening to her country, as well as effects on the reefs and marine life. 

But Tongan people are not in a state of crisis yet, she said.

“People don’t appear too worried about seas rising and the country sinking, but that comes down to a lack of understanding around it, really.

“Education around all of it is ramping up in Tonga, which is great.”

Overseas educators and development partners are present, and in the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Gita Habitat for Humanity and other crisis relief organisations stepped in to help rebuild.

“But education really is the solution for people,” Ms Lalahi said.

“Education around proper housing, cyclone proof houses. We are changing the building codes which will have a positive affect if it happens again.”

In the meantime, fruit and vegetables are imported from overseas, helping get Tongan’s over the fresh food drought.

“But we walk around Samoa and we are amazing at how much fruit you have available because it’s such a scarcity in Tonga,” she said.

“It’s good that it keeps getting pointed out that it’s happening,” Ms Lalahi said about the opening ceremony’s pointed reference to the climate crisis.

“You can’t pretend it’s not happening, and for some people who say climate change doesn’t exist, it’s because they are not living in a place that is heavily affected by it.

“It’s good to keep bringing this up to the public eye and having it in this public forum that reminds people.”

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