Cyclone Ula: Pōhiva announces national state of emergency

Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva has announced a national state of emergency as severe Tropical Cyclone Ula is expected to move close to the Islands of Vavaʻu at 7am this morning.

In his announcement the Prime Minister said:

Pursuant to Section 32 of the Emergency Management Act 2007 and having been certified that an emergency is happening or is about to happen in the Kingdom due to the destructive force winds and sea rises caused by Tropical Cyclone Ula and that it is necessary for the emergency powers to be exercised in order to prevent or minimize the loss of human life, illness or injury, property loss or damage and damage to the environment, I hereby declare that a state of emergency exists in all the land and sea areas of the districts of Vava’u and Ha’apai commencing from 10.00 pm, on Friday, 1st January, 2016. Declared in Nuku’alofa on this day, 1st January, 2016.

The state of emergency declaration will expire at 10pm on Friday, 29th January, 2016, unless it will be terminated earlier by the Prime Minister.

The announcement was made as  tropical cyclone warning was cancelled for Niuatoputapu.

On its 10th Tropical Cyclone Advisory this morning January 2, 2016 at 2am, the Fuʻamotu Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre (FTCWC) said a tropical cyclone warning remains in force for Vava’u, Ha’apai, Tongatapu and ‘Eua but is now cancelled for Niuatoputapu.

What is a national state of emergency?

Declaring a national state of emergency is an option when a disaster or other event is or is likely to be of such severity that it is beyond the resources of the local Civil Defence groups.

It provides for national resources to be marshalled to perform emergency functions and tasks such as:

* rescues
* evacuations from dangerous areas and the closing off of buildings, homes and other premises, public places and roads.
* setting up first aid posts
* providing relief such as emergency food, clothing and shelter
* regulating road, air and sea traffic
* undertaking the emergency disposal of bodies

It also allows authorities to requisition any land, building, vehicle, animal, boat, equipment, construction materials, bedding, food and medical supplies considered necessary for the preservation of human life.

FTCWC said: A hurricane warning remains in force for vava’u.

A storm warning remains in force for  Ha’apai, Tongatapu and ‘Eua.

A strong wind warning is in force for Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou.

A heavy damaging swells remains in force for Niuatoputapu, Vavau, Haapai,  Tongatapu and ʻEua waters.

A heavy rain warning remains in force for all Tonga.

Situation:

Severe tropical cyclone ula(category 3) was located 17 decimal 9 south, 172 decimal 8 west or 150km Northeast of vava’u or 270km Northeast of lifuka at 01:00am this morning.

The cyclone has estimated winds of 150km/hr near its centre.

The cyclone is currently moving West-Southwest at a speed of 20km/hr.on its current track severe tropical cyclone ula is expected to lie 40km North of Vava’u or 170km North-Northeast of Lifuka around 07:00am this morning.

For Vava’u:

East to Southeast winds gradually increasing to very destructive winds of 120-150km/hr with momentary gust up to 200km/hr.

Overcast with frequent heavy rain with squally thunderstorms. Expect possible flash flooding
including seas flooding in low lying areas.  Very high to phenomenal seas. A heavy damaging swell developing tonight.

For Haapai, Tongatapu and ʻEua:

East to Southeast winds gradually increasing to destructive winds with average speed of 80-90km/hr with momentary gust up to 120km/hr in the next 10-24 hours.

Mostly cloudy with scattered showers becoming overcast with frequent heavy rain with squally thunderstorms.high to very high seas.a heavy damaging swell developing tonight.

For Niuafo’ou and Niuatoputapu:
East to Southeast winds 45-55km/hr. Mostly cloudy with scattered showers possible, heavy at times.
rough to very rough seas. A moderate to heavy east to Southeast swell.

Tide predictions:

High tide : 01:00am
Low tide : 07:15am

The mean sea level pressure recorded at Lupepau’u Airport (Vavau) at 02:00am was 995.0 millibars.

The next tropical cyclone advisory for Tonga will be issued about 05:00am this morning.

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