Tropical Cyclone Gita hits Tonga overnight destroying and flooding homes


She's had a look on social media this morning to hear stories of people evacuating to emergency centres and roofs being ripped off buildings.

The US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre earlier said it was hitting maximum sustained winds estimated at 233km/h.

It caused significant damage in Samoa and American Samoa, where it made landfall last week as a Category 3 storm.

Chris Brandolino, a scientist at New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said the eye of the cyclone was expected to travel just south of the capital but could directly hit it.

Authorities have switched off the electricity for about 75,000 residents who live on the island.

"Many of you are seeing the various models in the public domain, some show a direct hit to New Zealand this Sunday while others show the storm nearly reaching Australia before curving back towards New Zealand next Wednesday".

In the midst of the storm, phone networks continued to operate and numerous 75,000 people on Tongatapu shared their experiences online.

"Prayers going out to everyone in Tonga".

Sione Taumoefolau, the secretary general of the Red Cross in Tonga, was quoted as saying that he had dispatched teams to the affected areas in Nuku'alofa and started to assess the damage.

The forecast trajectory of cyclone Gita
The forecast trajectory of cyclone Gita

Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, said the Royal Australian Air Force would fly the aid to Tonga on Tuesday night, ABC Australia reported.

"There are still people in Fiji living in tents, that have not had their houses rebuilt or repaired".

"They're certainly not structurally sound".

"Most of them haven't experienced anything like this before", he said. "It was a frightening night, the entire house was shaking", Sione said.

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

Mr Kenna said a curfew was expected to remain in place tomorrow.

Three people had been seriously injured by flying debris, and many others had less serious injuries. "I think a lot of people were very desperate (Monday night)". "We couldn't put lives at stake to go out in such atrocious weather".

New Zealand deployed a huge force to help the clean up after Cyclone Winston in 2016, with two ships, six aircraft, and nearly 500 personnel being sent out.