14 February 2018 | The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is responding to the destruction of Cyclone Gita in the South Pacific. Today the Australian ADRA office reported on its Facebook page that Cyclone Gita, which had hit Tonga as a Category 4 cyclone, had caused widespread damage in the nation and had even destroyed the country’s parliament building.
Britain’s The Telegraph reported that the cyclone is the worst Tonga has seen in 60 years and the strongest ever recorded in the capital of Nuku’alofa.
“I’ve been involved in disaster response for 30-plus years and it was the worst situation I’ve been in. A lot of the landmark buildings are extremely badly damaged or even destroyed, the landmark tree, near the palace, has been destroyed, it’s quite a bad situation,” reported Graham Kenna, of Tonga’s National Emergency Office to Radio New Zealand.
ADRA Australia reported that it is working with the Adventist Church to assess the damage caused by TC Gita in Tonga and to formulate a response. According to ADRA South Pacific’s Facebook page, the agency has made contact with Pr Saia Vea, President of the SDA Mission in Tonga who has done a preliminary damage assessment of the main island of Tongatapu. Key Adventist institutuons were affected by the cyclone. Beulah College suffered considerable infrastructure damage, as did Beulah Primary School and Hilliard Memorial School.
Several Adventist church buildings remain open as evacuation centers. The Red Cross reported that over 5,700 people sought shelter in 41 evacuation centers.
The South Pacific branch of ADRA reported on its Facebook page that TC Gita is the second tropical cyclone of the season. The cyclone passed to the south of Samoa as a Category 1 system. Just after midnight on Saturday morning, February 10, ADRA Samoa opened up an evacuation center at the Adventist headquarters in Apia, the Samoan capital. It took in over 200 people. ADRA and the Red Cross are working together to provide food and accommodation to those affected. TC Gita left a trail of localized flooding, power cuts and limited access to fresh water and roads in Samoa.
The Adventist denomination’s Tonga Mission has 3,325 members and the Samoa-Tokelau Mission has 7,520 members. Both missions were originally organized in 1895.