Strongest storm in 60 years batters Tonga in South Pacific

Strongest storm in 60 years batters Tonga in South Pacific

Strongest storm in 60 years batters Tonga in South Pacific

The winds were stronger than predicted, at 144 miles per hour, and ripped the roof off of the Tonga meteorological office, taking the national broadcaster off the air.

Residents on low-lying islands said several homes were flattened and crops were wiped out when the cyclone pounded their villages. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or deaths.

It has been estimated about 5700 people sought shelter in evacuation centres during the cyclone, and it is expected these numbers would increase substantially last night.

"The cyclone is now located about 220km south of Kadavu - that's the island within the southern parts of Fiji".

Anare Leweniqila, the director of the National Disaster Management Office said government was focused on completing damage assessments in its response to post cyclone relief needs in Southern Lau.

Manila: Four people were killed in the southern Philippines on Tuesday as a tropical storm unleashed heavy rain and triggered deadly landslides, police said.

From New Zealand, RNZ reports Gita has been upgraded to category five, the highest possible, Fiji's Meteorological service says. He said many homes had lost their roofs or were otherwise badly damaged.

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"Most of them haven't experienced anything like this before", he said.

Tongan noble lawmaker Lord Fusitu'a told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.it was a great disappointment the Parliament building had been knocked down.

"Successive legislatures over the years have suggested building a new parliament house and I guess that'll be a necessity now".

Meanwhile New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said of Cyclone Gita: "Our hercules arrived [in Tonga] last night, and we have had aerial surveillance which we has gone to Tongan authorities".

Gita had pummelled Samoa and American Samoa, about 900km to the northeast, over the weekend, flooding the Samoan capital, Apia. Water supplies and radio networks were also disrupted.

Tonga, located east of Fiji and north of New Zealand, is usually celebrated for its attractive white-sand beaches and serene islands, making it a popular honeymoon destination.

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