The South Pacific island of Tonga has been hit by a severe tropical cyclone, Gita, on February 12, 2018
The South Pacific island of Tonga has been hit by a severe tropical cyclone, Gita, on February 12, 2018.
The Category 4 storm reached the island nation overnight, with 145mph winds and heavy rain.
There has been severe structural damage inflicted, including widespread flooding, fallen trees, loss of power and water supplies, and many roofs damaged or destroyed.
Tonga’s Parliament House has been completely destroyed, as has its meteorology office.
According to Weather Track, 75% of homes in Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa have been destroyed, with 800 families sheltering in evacuation centres and others trapped in their houses.
Officials say that up to 40% of homes on the island are damaged and tens of thousands of people have been left without power as the main island of Tongatapu experienced a complete blackout.
Emergency authorities estimate that around 70% of the population has been affected by the storm, with no deaths reported so far.
Military personnel are beginning the clean-up, whilst Oxfam staff are reportedly preparing water filtration systems.
The New Zealand Red Cross is requesting donations to its Pacific Disaster Fund in order to provide shelter, relief items, first aid supplies and emergency medical care, and access to safe drinking water.
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has announced a government pledge of NZ$750,000 to provide immediate assistance to the Tongan government.
Family hygiene kits, shelter kits, jerry cans and tarpaulins are being transported by a C130 Hercules plane, which is also carrying a government team to support the New Zealand High Commission assess the needs on the Pacific island.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said it was on standby to provide additional military assistance and humanitarian supplies.
The Pacific region is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, with a high risk of exposure to tropical storms, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes and drought.
The storm is headed towards Fiji and is expected to intensify to a Category 5 cyclone as it passes over the Ono-i-Lau group of islands.