One person is thought to have died after a tropical cyclone
tore through northern Tonga last night, media reports say.
The main island of LIfuka is said to have been devastated by
Cyclone Ian, killing at least one person, news website
Matangi Tonga reported.
It quoted Sione Taumoefolau, head of the Tonga Red Cross, as
saying he believed there had been one death on the island.
Tongan authorities declared a state of emergency for the
island groups of Vava'u and Ha'apai yesterday as Cyclone Ian
began to lash the island groups with gales and heavy rain.
Cyclone Ian side-stepped Tonga's heavily populated main
island of Tongatapu, which escaped unscathed during the night
as the storm moved south west, Matangi Tonga reported.
The Tongan meteorological service has reclassed Cyclone Ian
to a category five after briefly downgrading it to a category
It was tracking 210 kilometres east-southeast of the capital
Nuku'alofa at 4am local time, with estimated wind speeds of
110 knots near its centre and momentary gusts of up to 155
At that time it was moving in a south-southeast direction,
away from Tonga, at a speed of 11 knots, the Tonga
Meteorological Group said.
It was not expected to directly hit the Tongatapu and `Eua
New Zealand aid is already helping with the immediate
response effort following Cyclone Ian, Foreign Affairs
Minister Murray McCully said.
Financial aid, as well as the use of military aircraft to
help assess the damage caused, has been offered to the Tongan
"An RNZAF P3 Orion arrived in Tonga this morning to assist
with aerial assessments following Tropical Cyclone Ian. We
will also make $50,000 immediately available to respond to
specific requests for assistance,'' Mr McCully said.
"Our thoughts are with the people of Tonga as they begin to
come to terms with the damaged caused by this cyclone.''
Early reports suggest damage to buildings in parts of
Ha'apai, limited communications and power outages, the
"More details will become available as Tongan authorities
make assessments today.''
Further support will be considered as the full extent of the
damage becomes clear and the government of Tonga determines
its priority response areas, Mr McCully said.
New Zealanders in Tonga are advised to follow the advice of
local authorities, including any evacuation orders, seek
suitable shelter, monitor local media for updates, and keep
friends and family in New Zealand informed of their
If they require consular advice they should contact the New
Zealand High Commission in Nuku' alofa.
- Patrice Dougan of APNZ