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Strongest storm in 60 years batters Tonga in South Pacific

14 February 2018

Several people were reportedly injured in the storm, and a 72-year-old man died of a heart attack, although it was unclear whether his death was related to Cyclone Gita. 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.

It left around 40 percent of houses in the Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa damaged, according to local officials.

Thousands of Tonga residents are facing a long wait for power and other services to be restored after Cyclone Gita tore through the Pacific nation.

The water supply is expected to be fully functional by this evening says Tonga Water Board (TWB) Acting CEO, Kolopeaua Tonga, after Cyclone Gita destroyed the water pump shed located at Mata-ki-'Eua on Togatapu.

Kiwi Defence personnel also deployed 12 tonnes of aid supplies and a 10-member team to Tonga by air to assess the damage.

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.

New Zealand MetService lead meteorologist Michael Martens said the Category 4 cyclone arrived in the southern Lau island group about 6pm yesterday, slowly passing through until about 10pm.

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. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months.

In Tonga, publisher Pesi Fonua said fallen trees were littering the landscape and their absence was opening up new vistas. The storm strengthened as it moved south.

"We know many people will be desperately trying to get in touch with friends and family to make sure they're safe, especially over the coming days".

Gita had pummelled Samoa and American Samoa, about 900km to the northeast, over the weekend, flooding the Samoan capital, Apia.

Strongest storm in 60 years batters Tonga in South Pacific