Tupou's house destroyed in Cyclone Gita

Cyclone Gita batters southern Fiji, upgraded to category five, heading for Vanuatu, New Caledonia

Cyclone Gita batters southern Fiji, upgraded to category five, heading for Vanuatu, New Caledonia

The Pacific island nation was hit hard by the tropical storm in the middle of the night.

Pita Taufatofua, who has become an unlikely star of the past two Olympic Games thanks to his viral shirtlessness, said his family is safe after Cyclone Gita tore through Tonga on Tuesday.

Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga says the storm caused widespread damage to homes and infrastructure.

Gita was the worst cyclone to pass so close to Tonga's main islands in six decades, and is expected to hit Fiji's Lau Islands by midday Tuesday.

The office's director, Anare Leweniqila, said damage assessments were on-going, but so far there were no reports of casualties or injuries.

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There were no confirmed reports of deaths from the Category 4 storm that brought winds of around 200 kilometres per hour, but there were a lot of injured people, some seriously, said Graham Kenna, an Australian government adviser at Tonga's National Emergency Management Office.

"The cyclone is now located about 220km south of Kadavu - that's the island within the southern parts of Fiji". Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. The storm strengthened as it moved south. Some schools have water inside, and officials will conduct structural checks of the buildings.

The cyclone was intensifying and was forecast to hit some southern Fiji islands Tuesday night, though it was likely to miss Fiji's major population centers, including the capital, Suva.

Mr Taleitaki said many people were still in the evacuation centres while they recover and begin repairs on their homes.

"Most of them haven't experienced anything like this before", he said.

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

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand was making available an initial $750,000 to support relief efforts in Tonga.

President Donald Trump on Sunday declared an emergency in American Samoa, a US territory.

Tonga is made up of more than 170 islands, and is located in the Pacific Ocean east of Fiji and north of New Zealand.

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