“We feel abandoned.” Heavy rain worsens misery of Atatā refugees still living in tents

Heavy rain has worsened the misery of displaced families displaced by the ‘Atatā  tsunami.

The Tongan weather service has issued  warnings for heavy rain, flash flooding, strong winds on land and sea and operating small craft.

Kaniva News has been reliably told that tents have been flooded.

Residents living in tents had to be evacuated and find shelter with neighbours or move in with relatives from other villages.

Photos shared with Kaniva News show tents had been flooded.

We have contacted the Ministry of Infrastructure for comment and are waiting for a response.

Atatā was devastated by the tsunami that followed the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcanic eruption on January 8, 2022. According to some reports, the island was submerged  by the tsunami.

The United Nations said that more than 70 buildings were damaged and the whole island was covered by ash from the erupting volcano.

The islanders were eventually relocated to a site near Nuku’alofa that has become known as ‘Atatā  Jnr.

Now, two years after the disaster,  the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has released a report on refugees from the ‘Atatā. Former residents said they were told by government representatives it was unsafe to live on the Island.

According to the ABC, nobody has rebuilt on Atata and it remains abandoned except for former residents visiting for fishing or brief stopovers, it remains abandoned.

Some refugees from the island were allocated newly built homes, but others are still living in tents.

In the ABC report, people living in tents say they feel abandoned and that they either suffer from very hot temperatures in the tents or from rain which soaks the floors.

Now they have suffered flooding from days of heavy rain.

They say they have not been told anything about accommodation or whether they will be built homes.

Overseas donations were meant to build 268 new homes, but so far only 120 have been built.

Minister for Infrastructure Sevenitini Toumoʻua told the ABC a combination of a skills shortage and land issues had contributed to the delays.

“We’ve had some challenges along the way,” he says. “But we’re expecting works to be completed by June.”  

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