Cyclone Gita: worst storm in over 60 years destroys Tonga


Most of Fiji has escaped the worst of Tropical Cyclone Gita, but contact with Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa - potentially the worst hit - will not be restored until tomorrow.

Desperate people boarded up their homes and stocked up on essential supplies while praying and hoping for the best before heading to the safety of emergency shelters.

Leweniqila said crops on both islands had been damaged, but Fiji's most populated centres escaped serious harm as Cyclone Gita passed south of Fiji's capital, Suva.

Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy, the Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules carrying aid and a 10-member initial assessment team led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) arrived at Fua'amotu International Airport on the main Tongan island of Tongatapu on Tuesday evening.

"Right now we have lost all communications with the island (s)".

Britain's meteorological Met Office said Gita is maintaining its strength, and is the strongest cyclone to lash Tonga in 60 years.

Wind gusts at Ono-i-Lau had reached 190km/h last night.

Mitchell Santner left with Trent Boult
Mitchell Santner left with Trent Boult

"Not exactly what I wanted to hear but much love to all my Fams (sic) back home".

Gale, wind and storm warnings also remained in effect.

Damages in Tonga after TC Gita.

"A lot of the older houses, especially some of the older heritage houses, have been badly damaged or destroyed, which is very sad, they're quite historical", Kenna said. The roof of Tonga's Parliament building was also destroyed.

There have been no confirmed deaths from the storm, although Tongan police said three people had suffered major injuries and another 30 suffered minor injuries. But, the level of damage to crops, homes, vegetation and infrastructure was extremely high.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) New Zealand said it was prepared to respond to the disaster and had already dispatched emergency supplies to nearby Fiji.

On Tonga, acting Prime Minister Semisi Sika declared a state of emergency, urging residents to stay where they were to prevent injury and avoid further damage to property or the environment.

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