Tonga Begins Cleanup of Powerful Cyclone's Damage


PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP)-Officials in American Samoa began a full assessment Monday of damage caused by tropical storm Gita over the weekend.

A Gale Warning remained in effect for Ono-I-Lau, Vatoa, Matuku, Totoya, Moala, Kadavu and nearby smaller islands and is cancelled for the rest of southern Lau.

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"Based on initial reports received, we know we will be responding to immediate needs of food, water, and shelter".

"Overall, damages to infrastructure have been minimal, but reports are still coming at this moment and we should have a clearer overview of the situation in the next couple of hours".

The islands of Tonga in the South Pacific were devastated by Tropical Cyclone Gita, considered to be the worst storm to hit the kingdom in 60 more than years.

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

"Currently, the Australian Defense Forces are facilitating an aerial survey on our behalf, and the data received will allow us to make concrete plans of response for the next 48 hours".

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

"There would have been very strong winds and heavy rain - definitely not something you would want to be in". But we do not have good information on the outer islands, so we will have to wait and see what we find today.

His house was operating as one of three evacuation centres in the area.

Radio New Zealand reported Tuesday that Tonga's parliament house as well as several homes and churches were destroyed.