From left; Siasi Tokaikolo 'ia Kalaisi minister Rami Nicholas, three boys who survived the fire and Frank Koloi.
Photo/ 275 Times
Much needed donations of money and clothes have been flowing in for families affected by the massive fire in Māngere Bridge.
“Nothing was left.”
That’s how Frank Koloi summarised the scenes, following a fire that destroyed four homes in the early hours of 30 November next to his church in Māngere Bridge.
Koloi, who’s acting as spokesperson for the Siasi Tokaikolo 'ia Kalaisi Tongan church, says the survivors have literally been left with the clothes on their backs.
What's left of the houses that were destroyed in Māngere Bridge. Photo/ 275 Times
But he says both the congregation and the wider community have been quick to offer support to the 18 affected people who were living in the destroyed cabins.
“They were just in singlets and pyjamas when they got out, so one of the first things members brought was blankets,” he told local media.
“And one of the first people who came was the principal of Māngere Bridge Primary to offer their support - and to make sure our children have what they need so they won’t have to miss out on the school's end of year celebrations.”
Koloi, who’s a trustee with the church, says around 14 fire trucks attended the fire, while staff from the Ministry of Social Development and Kainga Ora have also been in touch to ensure the families can be rehoused as quickly as possible.
“We’ve also received thousands of dollars in donations already. And people have been coming in with envelopes of cash.”
According to RNZ, Fire services’ initial inspection of the site showed a suspected electrical fault was responsible for starting the blaze.
The Tongan church Siasi Tokaikolo 'ia Kalaisi in Māngere Bridge. Photo/ 275 Times
The church was originally built around 1996, after the land was bought off a vegetable farming family and Koloi says the church has long been a place of refuge for Tongans.
“It’s become iconic for the Tonga community. When this first opened there were no other Tongan community halls, so everything was held here - wedding, funerals and even back then, it was apparent there was a need for struggling families, so the existing houses at the back were then converted into accommodation.
“And now the need is even greater.”
Click here for details of how you can support families affected the fires.