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Cyclone Gita heads for Tonga

12 February 2018

A tropical storm warning remained in place Saturday as American Samoa was forecast to have heavy winds and rains.

A state of disaster has been declared in Samoa after a devastating cyclone ripped through the island.

The NDMO on its official Twitter account stated that parts of Sourthern Lau, which include Ono-i-Lau, Vatoa, Fulaga, Kabara, Moce, Komo, Namuka-i-Lau, Ogea, Oneata and Lakeba, are to expect destructive hurricane force winds and damaging storm surges from Tuesday evening.

"We're talking about Category 5, the strongest category for a cyclone", said Ofa Fa'anunu, the director of Tonga's Meteorological Service.

Schools and workplaces in Tonga, which has a population of over just over 100,000, were closed ahead of the storm.

The forecast trajectory of cyclone Gita
The forecast trajectory of cyclone Gita

"That's an incredibly strong cyclone ... people are getting prepared ... it really does save lives", said Hanna Butler, Red Cross Pacific spokeswoman based in Fiji.

The Metservice also warned of huge coastal swells and flooding of low-lying areas.

Vaisigano river, Apia, Samoa during Cyclone Gita. About 300 people had evacuated but were now returning to their homes, Butler said.

"In downtown Nuku'alofa people are starting to nail down their roofs and many have already started to board up".

Oxfam stands ready to support the Tongan government, which may include mobilising local partners and other emergency personnel.

Cyclone Gita heads for Tonga