Gov’t orders villagers left homeless by tsunami to live in tents just as cyclone season begins

People from ‘Atatā who were made homeless by the Hungas eruption and tsunami have  been ordered to move into tents at ‘Atatā Si’i just as the cyclone season has  begun.

One of about more than a dozen tents set up at ‘Atatā Si’i. Photo/ Supplied

Tonga is expected to face three cyclones in the 2023-24 cyclone season, one of them severe.

Some of them told Kaniva News they were really concerned because the area to which they had been moved was prone to flooding  and had recently  been inundated.

The group of people had been living in a church hall for nearly two years in Kolomotu’a. 

‘Atatā Si’i was the new village created for the ‘Atatā survivors. As we reported previously,  22 families from ‘Atatā moved into their new house in December 2022.

There had been no reports of Atatā people still living without new houses when the government opened and launched the new houses at ‘Atatā Si’i last year.

The people who had been living in the hall were told last week to move to ‘Atatā Si’i and live there in tents. They do not have bathrooms and toilets. They were told by the government to share  the ‘Atatā Si’i’s residents’ bathrooms and toilets.

We contacted the Ministry for Infrastructure’s CEO, Lopeti Heimuli, for comment. He was asked to explain why these people were not given new houses.

He was also asked when the government was planning to build houses for these people.

He was also asked how long the people were expected to live in tents and share bathrooms with the residents of ‘Atatā Si’i.

Kaniva News spoke with some residents of ‘Atatā Si’i who said the arrival of the remaining ‘Atatāans made it difficult for those who were already settled in the new village.

The PTOA (Democrats) frontliners in New Zealand have blasted the government for its handling of the ‘Atatā survivors’ housing needs.

One frontliner, Sione ‘Eniketi Tāufa, said there were a lot of issues with the contracts for the building of the houses at ‘Atatā.   These included the government’s failure to ensure the construction work ran smoothly.

Tevita Kātoa from the PTOA’s Aotearoa Chapter said he was concerned that millions of dollars had been donated to Tonga to assist the survivors of the eruption. This should have meant the new houses were all completed at the same time.

“The government should stop buying new aircraft and try to sort out these people’s housing needs first”, Kātoa said.

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