The islands of Tonga have been devastated by Tropical Cyclone Gita with winds of 230km/h flattening parts of Parliament House and causing significant damage and injuries across the kingdom.
Gita hit Tonga around 8pm on Monday night and peaked between 11pm and 2am, slamming on to the south coast of the main island of Tongatapu, bringing down electricity lines, smashing churches and levelling fruit trees and crops vital to the island’s livelihood.
Communications were lost overnight as Gita ripped the roof off the Tonga meteorological office as well as taking the national broadcaster off air for a time.
It is the strongest cyclone to pass so close to the main islands of Tonga in the modern record (at least 60 years).
New Zealand has released $750,000 in emergency relief funding, and prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the defence force was on standby to deploy as soon as Tongan authorities specified what assistance they required from her government.
Tonga’s emergency response team said they were struggling to assess damage around the capital and the islands due to debris blocking roads and downed power lines, and were not likely to have a comprehensive assessment of the disaster until Wednesday.