Cyclone Gita: worst storm in over 60 years destroys Tonga

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The Parliament building in the Pacific country of Tonga has been flattened after a powerful cyclone battered the main island, causing extensive damage.

Even the Tongan Meteorological Service lost its roof, forcing it to hand over the job of issuing warnings about the cyclone to its counterpart in Fiji.

Today, the Pacific Ocean nation looked more like a nightmare, with around 40 percent of homes damaged and felled trees marking flooded roads.

The Minister of Disaster Management, Poasi Tei, said teams of government assessors had been dispatched to villages and towns to report on damage caused by the category four cyclone.

Mitchell Santner left with Trent Boult
Mitchell Santner left with Trent Boult

Meanwhile, a 72-year-old man from Fua'amotu died suddenly in hospital while three people were seriously injured and 30 were admitted to hospital with minor injuries, Tei said.

Fiji escaped a direct hit but emergency authorities remain concerned for thousands of people on islands in the southern Lau group, where communications have been cut. The storm strengthened as it moved south.

Forecasters said the cyclone was moving away from major land areas for now but was headed towards Vanuatu's most southern islands and New Caledonia.

Mr Taleitaki said many people were still in the evacuation centres while they recover and begin repairs on their homes. "It was a real shock for them".

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"Successive legislatures over the years have suggested building a new Parliament House, and I guess that'll be a necessity now", he said.

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

"Wind was blowing and we heard roofing torn and flying over, it was quite scary", NEMO director Leveni Aho told the ABC.

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

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The most intense part of this cyclone is smaller than the North Island, so it's precise intensity and tracking makes all the difference on which parts of New Zealand will be worst affected, however it does appear it will come into the western side of the North Island or perhaps the Cook Strait area.

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