Gauging station at Fua’amotu International Airport in Tonga
The Principal Meteorological Office

Warning system Tonga

Foundation prize

The development of an early-warning system in Tonga is making progress. With the support of the New Zealand Meteorological Service, the system is scheduled to be in place by mid-2008.

The Foundation prize awarded in 2006 put Tonga in a position to develop an effective early-warning system against tropical storms and floods, which regularly hit the archipelago state with its widely scattered islands. Up to now, the national disaster protection service has not been able to assess the actual threat properly because the satellite system employed does not usually function in strong wind.

By contrast, the early-warning project launched with the help of the Munich Re Foundation has a communication network that uses high-frequency radio data circuits to provide more exact forecasts and broadcast warnings. The quality of the forecasts will be additionally enhanced through connection to the Pacific warning system RANET. After difficulties with an Australian supplier had led to delays in the original timetable, the technical equipment arrived in Tonga in October 2007. Parallel to this, an expert from Tonga has received training from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and RANET specialists. Since December 2007, the New Zealand Meteorological Service has been working hard to get the system installed on Nukualofa. The timetable envisages that other islands, such as Nemo, Vava’u and Ha’apai, will be equipped with high-frequency antennae in the first half of 2008. Tonga will then have an effective warning system that can save numerous lives when disaster threatens.

Past experience has shown how important such an early-warning system is for Tonga in particular. Since 1980, at least eight cyclones and one Tornado have struck the island kingdom. Now its people will have time to prepare themselves for such events. The Foundation prize will thus fulfil its purpose of improving living conditions and reducing vulnerability to disasters.