WELLINGTON: Meteorologists in the Pacific were keeping a close watch on a developing tropical storm near the Solomon Islands on Friday amid concerns it would develop into the region’s second cyclone in a week.
On its present path the storm would head south brushing New Caledonia and New Zealand. It was intensifying as a clearer picture emerged of the toll on Tonga where Cyclone Ian carved a trail of destruction through its Ha’apai islands group last weekend, leaving thousands homeless and destroying food supplies.
A new government report said the vital tourism industry, which is a pillar of the islands’ economy, was severely affected. “It is evident that with lack of clean water, loss of electricity and telephone lines, it will take approximately 2 to 3 months for businesses to recover from the damages caused,” the report said.
Following a request from the Tongan government, New Zealand has stepped up its assistance supplying 300 emergency kits to provide interim shelter for more than 2,000 people.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said they were also assisting the Red Cross to provide clean water to the Ha’apai islands and would make a further NZ$300,000 (US$250,000) available to aid agencies on the ground.
The Fiji Meteorological Service issued a bulletin saying the potential for the latest tropical storm to develop into a cyclone “was high”.
In New Zealand, WeatherWatch.co.nz analyst Philip Duncan said even if it did not fully intensify it would “produce flooding rains, gale force winds and dangerous rips.” AFP