Participating High Schools

Workshops Theme 3 Group F

Tonga Tonga High School

School Introduction Video

Presentation Summary

Title Back Resilient Communities in Tonga After the 2022 Tsunami
Survey Introduction This survey was conducted to investigate the experiences and opinions of Tonga High School students regarding how their coastal communities in Tongatapu responded to the 2022 tsunami which occurred due to the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption. These findings were compared to official government reports issued around the time of the tsunami to see whether similar or different concerns were raised.
Method Questionnaires and document survey
Subject 10 Tonga High School students aged 14 - 17 from
various coastal villages in the main island of Tongatapu took part.
Results Impacts of the tsunami included fear, loss of vegetation and even family employment as well as loss of or damage to homes. It was reported that the events of January 15, 2022 caused $9.3 million USD in damages to residential homes (World Bank, 2022). This report discussed the damage from tsunami alongside that of the volcanic ashfall which happened on the same day. This was also the experience of students as they discussed the volcanic eruption and tsunami side by side.

Most participants said they were not prepared as they did not expect the tsunami to come. Many were able to evacuate with minimal or no supplies when they heard from friends and family that the tsunami was coming. During the tsunami, common responses were to evacuate to higher ground and to pray to God for help and comfort. Following the tsunami, students highlighted families, churches and villagers sharing resources and working together to clean up after tsunami and ash fall. This holistic view of recovery - including not only the reconstruction of physical infrastructure but also the restoration of social and emotional wellbeing - was also reflected in the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai Volcanic Eruption and Tonga Tsunami Recovery and Building Back Better Plan 2022 - 2025 from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The community and family links as well as aid from the government were viewed positively. Tongans overseas were also reported to have sent resources over to affected communities (MEIDECCC, 2022). However, some students identified that communities required assistance to relocate from coastal areas, while others believed that if they continued to live in the coastline, stronger shelters would be required.
Interestingly, students did not mention the loss of internet and telecommunications which the First Official Report (Prime Minister’s Office , 2022) following the Tsunami extensively highlighted. The importance of having enough water was mentioned by a

number of students. The third situation report issued by the National Emergency Management Office the day after the tsunami also highlighted that water was an urgent need for people in evacuation centers as they were advised not to drink water contaminated by volcanic ash. For the future, the importance of being prepared by having food, water and clothing supplies for evacuation ready, praying and listening to tsunami warnings was highlighted.
Issues ・ The lack of preparation was repeatedly mentioned in the questionnaire responses. This is problematic as it indicates that communities were not able to take appropriate actions to prepare for the evacuation.

・ Some students thought coastal communities should rebuild stronger shelters while it was also pointed out that relocation is necessary to move these communities further inland. Relocation may result in weakened community links that were viewed as a source of strength while rebuilding in the same area exposes residents to the same risk.
Action Plan ・ Students need to gain more awareness about how to prepare for a tsunami, particularly for an evacuation from coastal areas. This is especially necessary as many people from affected areas in Tongatapu have rebuilt in the same areas. Staff from disaster relief agencies in Tonga will be invited to speak to students at school to educate them on how to prepare an evacuation pack.

 The tension between relocating and rebuilding has been captured in our initial survey but the coastal students’ opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy can be investigated further. A follow up survey will be done to investigate this to determine what building back better may look like for each community with its unique challenges and what influences a family’s decision to rebuild in the same area or to relocate. Carrying out this survey with students at Tonga High School will also help build awareness about tsunami and encourage discussions about building back better.