Tonga ravaged by Cyclone Gita

Aaron Brown
February 14, 2018

"A picture of the extent of damage caused by Cyclone Gita is emerging and it is clear a big response and clean-up job lies ahead".

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.

Tonga National Emergency Office spokesman Graham Kenna said a number of homes were destroyed and officials haven't yet restored water and power services.

"We're on the third floor of one of the safest buildings in Nuku'alofa and the building was shaking and getting pounded by debris from missing roofs".

Tonga has been lashed by a devastating tropical storm, with winds exceeding a speed of 230 km/hr, damaging various houses and commercial shops, flattening parts of the country's Parliament House and causing injuries across the country.

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

"We're here to help people".

"So we had not much contact as to where the cyclone was going".

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He estimated around 40 percent of houses in the capital, which is home to around 24,500 people, had suffered some damage, with roofs blown off and flooding.

Around 50,000 people, or nearly 70% of the country's population, have been affected, a third of whom are children.

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".

The damage on Tonga's outer islands has not been fully assessed, as information from there was slow to obtain.

"So it's going to be some time before we get a quick overview of the damages to the nation".

The cyclone was intensifying and was forecast to hit some southern Fiji islands Tuesday night, though it's likely to miss Fiji's major population centers, including the capital, Suva.

"It's not only hit the boys in Tonga, but the Samoan boys and now I've heard it's heading to Fiji so it's great to have the club come behind us island boys - not just us but the place in general - and have a helping hand in that".

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