Cyclone hits southern Fiji islands, damage uncertain

Kristen Gonzales
February 16, 2018

"We saw a couple of years ago with Cyclone Winston, as she was up above Tonga turned a full circle and came back to Fiji, so we're still watching things very closely", she said.

After cyclone Gita's fierce winds ripped off roofs and felled coconut trees, people in Tonga emerged from shelter to find homes destroyed.

The British Meteorological Office predicted that Gita was the worst cyclone to have struck the tiny Pacific nation in 60 years.

Cyclone Gita caused power outages after tearing through the island nation just south of the capital, Nuku'alofa, with winds exceeding 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour) at landfall. "There are no casualty reports".

"I have never experienced anything like that", Tonga High School French teacher Virginie Dourlet said.

No injuries or deaths were reported. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Some schools have water inside, and officials will conduct structural checks of the buildings.

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Hurricane warnings initially set for the Fijian islands of Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa on Tuesday were downgraded to a storm warning after Gita headed west, the Fiji National Disaster Management Office said.

"We have received initial reports from village headmen indicating that housing and agriculture are the sectors with the most damages". Many people had endured a terrifying night and were glad to be alive, he added. "Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months", the NHC said. "It was a real shock for them".

One MP, Lord Fusitu'a, told ABC News that the damage was "a great disappointment".

The Minister for Building and Construction spent her early years living in Tonga, and is the first Tongan speaking MP to enter New Zealand Parliament.

"Tonga is a close neighbour of New Zealand and we stand ready to assist our neighbours in times like these", Air Commodore McEvoy said.

Emergency authorities said about 70 per cent of the population had been affected and food and water would be a significant problem.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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