Published: Wed, February 14, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

A category 4 cyclone flattened Tonga's parliament

A category 4 cyclone flattened Tonga's parliament

"We have lost all our food, our plantation".

Tonga felt the full effect of one of its worst cyclones leaving behind nothing but debris.

Winds were gusting almost 200km/h last night as the fringes of the cyclone approached Fiji, cutting communications to some residents.

Cyclone Gita has been upgraded to a category five storm after battering parts of southern Fiji.

Village headman on Ono-i-lau Ilaitia Taleitaki said it was a very unsafe situation for about 12 hours with roofing iron flying around, large trees blown down and food crops reduced to what he called "ground zero".

The Category 4 cyclone is not expected to strengthen to Category 5, as weather models earlier predicted. Its more than 124 miles per hour (200km/h) winds were the strongest to wreak havoc on Tonga's main islands since modern records began 60 years ago.

"The sea is reasonably rough and that changed in the last hour or so".

As the cyclone moved east towards Fiji, authorities warned communities to brace for conditions similar to cyclone Winston that ravaged the country in 2016.

On Tuesday, the storm caused major structural damage across Tonga, and the clean-up there is only just beginning. In Fiji, no casualties or injuries have been reported.

Gita is still under the influence of the sub-tropical ridge (elongated area) of high pressure, located to the south and is still being steered westward.

Reds prop Taniela Tupou has issued an emotional plea for help after his family's house was destroyed in Cyclone Gita.

There were no reports of deaths, but several people were injured, Graham Kenna, an Australian government adviser at Tonga's National Emergency Management Office, told Reuters.

There are 176 islands in the Kingdom of Tonga, with only 40 inhabited, and officials fear the damage could be even worse in the more isolated islands, where information is slow to come out. Water supplies and radio networks were also disrupted.

"I have been doing disaster responses for 30 years and I think it's the scariest night that I've had".

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