GOVERNMENT has been urged to consider constructing alternative evacuation route for Tongatapu 4 constituency in case a powerful earthquake triggers a tsunami from the Tonga Trench.

Popua and Patagata people use only the main road along the waterfront as avenue to get to a safe and higher ground like Mataki’eua in times of tsunami warning.

The call was made when the House considered the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change & Communications (MEIDECC) 2014 Annual Report.

According to a recent Government report if powerful earthquake strikes in the Tonga Trench it takes about 15 minutes for most part of the Nuku’alofa area to be covered in water.

It also stated that only three areas likely to remain above water including the New Zealand High Commission residence at Popua, Sia ‘a Tevolo at Ma’ufanga and a higher ground at Pili.

Hence, Tongatapu 4 constituency MP, Mateni Tapueluelu called on MEIDECC Minister to consider his plea for Tongatapu 4 electorate is among the most vulnerable area if a tsunami strikes.

“If that is the time prediction for the tidal wave to roll into land, more people will die trying to
get to Mataki’eua…we have witnessed the tragedy in Niuatoputapu, the tsunami strikes once and it caused damages worth millions and claimed lives as well,” explained Tongatapu 4 MP.

Tapueluelu was concerned about no road access to Sia ‘a Tevolo and Pili sites.

“Evacuation routes to use in getting people to higher grounds are in place but I’m concerned about no easy access to these areas,” said Tongatapu 4 MP.

Another issue raised by Tapueluelu is no evacuation center for public to use when such natural disaster strikes.

In response the MEIDECC Minister and also the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni said there is a siren to immediately alert the public when a tsunami strikes.

Hon. Sovaleni also iterated that the 15 minute prediction is only applied to a worst case scenario.

“If a tsunami triggered by a 9 magnitude earthquake from the Tonga Trench of ‘Eua, it is predicted about 15 minutes the wave could wipe the Nuku’alofa area that is only the worst case scenario.

He also mentioned Government has consider options for alternative evacuation roads connecting Popua to the Bypass Road in times of disaster. This is to avoid people of Tongatapu 4 from using the waterfront in getting to safe and higher ground.

In response, Hon. Sovaleni said MEIDECC has established a unit to manage the project. Their task is to draw up a road construction map for Tongatapu 4 constituency, Talafo’ou, Navutoka and other areas in the Eastern District as alternative routes for the public to use in times of tsunami.

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