NZ set to juggle resources in cyclone-hit Pacific

While New Zealand helps out the Cooks Islands in the aftermath of Cyclone Pat, it is waiting to hear if it needs to divert resources to Tonga, which was battered by Cyclone Rene overnight.

There have been no reported injuries or fatalities as a result of Cyclone Rene which was a stroppy category four storm when it slammed into the northern Tongan islands yesterday and the main island of Tongatapu overnight.

It has, however, brought down trees and powerlines, lifted roofs, and knocked out communications between the islands.

Crops have been hard-hit, with winds tearing down banana palms and fruit from mango and breadfruit trees.

Staff at the New Zealand High Commission in Nuku'alofa reported very high winds, squally rains and heavy seas last night. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) said today that with power and communication down it was difficult to get an accurate assessment of damage, but the New Zealand government was monitoring the situation closely.

"We are talking to the Tongan government, as well as our partners Australia and France about the best use of our collective resources in planning for a possible response," a spokesman said.

New Zealanders with immediate plans to travel to Tonga were advised to contact their travel agent in case flights had been disrupted.

Based on its current track, the now-downgraded Cyclone Rene is likely to begin affecting eastern and southern parts of Fiji later today.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules is in the Cook Islands and will fly to the northern island of Aitutaki today with an engineering team on board to help with the clean-up after Cyclone Pat hit the region last Thursday.

A state of disaster was declared on Aitutaki where about 60 percent of houses were damaged. The team will be based in Aitutaki and the Hercules will fly supplies between Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

New Zealand had made an initial contribution of $200,000 for relief and recovery efforts in the Cook Islands and would continue to work with authorities there, he said.


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