Tonga

Cyclone Gita: Houses destroyed, church 'completely gone'

Fiji's MetService said the category four storm was very close to being upgraded to the highest category, five.

It had already washed out building and equipment of Tonga's met office, and Fiji weather forecasters took over issuing warnings for the region from shortly before midnight.

The storm was expected to be upgraded to a category five in the early hours of the morning.

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

Tonga police to impose curfew tonight for capital

The move comes after the government declared a state of emergency.

Under the curfew no one would be able to enter the CBD unless they are part of the Gita Emergency Response Team.

"The curfew furthers protect people and property and police have asked for public understanding and common sense," Mr Caldwell said.

Police have also issued key safety messages to the public:

· Keep yourself and your family safe

· Keep off the road

· Stay at home if it's safe

· Get to an Evacuation Centre as soon as possible with food and water

Tonga battens down as Cyclone Gita approaches

The category 4 cyclone is expected to hit Tongatapu and Eua around 7pm today.

The government has declared a State of Emergency until 12 March 2018.

All the schools were closed today and some public and private agencies suspended their services as part of their preparations for the cyclone.

Evacuation centres in villages on Tongatapu are now open and the public is being urged to move persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups to the centres while there is still daylight.

Tonga Government declares State of Emergency ahead of Cyclone Gita

In a statement, Acting Prime Minister Semisi Sika said due to destructive force winds and sea rises associated with the category four storm, it was necessary for emergency powers to be exercised in order to prevent or minimise loss of life or injury and damage to property and the environment.

Gita has brought destructive force winds and sea rises and is expected to be closest to Tongatapu by midnight tonight.

It is also expected to intensify into a category 5 cyclone with winds of over 200km an hours.

Cyclone Gita forecast to hit highest level category five

A massive clean up is under way across Samoa and American Samoa after they bore the brunt of the cyclone at the weekend.

Some parts of Samoa are still underwater as emergency teams work to restore power and running water to thousands of households.

Schools have been closed and there are raised fears about sanitation and the spread of mosquito-borne dengue fever.

The cyclone is now around 450 kilometres east of Tongatapu and moving towards the island.

Cyclone Gita could become Cat 4 as it heads to Tonga

The cyclone tore through Samoa and American Samoa causing major damage on both islands.

The cyclone was upgraded to a category three last night as it passed Niue, but it's now making its way towards Tonga and could possibly become a category four.

Weather reports said the cyclone would be close to Niue as it headed towards Tonga but the system shifted overnight and instead curved around Niue.

Opposition MP Terry Coe said Niue was lucky to have escaped Gita's fury.

Tonga's finance minister denies he has been sacked

Pohiva Tu'ionetoa has been in Australia on medical leave for over three weeks and is not expected to return to Tonga until at least the end of the month.

Reports have been circulating around the kingdom and over the internet that Mr Tu'ionetoa had been dismissed for health reasons.

Mr Pohiva has denied the reports and Mr Tu'ionetoa has attributed them to what he calls "opposition forces".

Tonga's famous flagbearer returns to steal the show

Pita Taufatofua emerged from the tunnel covered in his trademark body oil and wearing a grass skirt, sandals and a huge smile as he led the Tongan delegation around the arena.

"I won't freeze. I am from Tonga. We sailed across the Pacific. This is nothing," Taufatofua said.

The Oceania gold medallist in taekwondo made global headlines in 2016 with a shirtless entrance as the country's flagbearer at the Rio Olympics.

The good news for his admirers is that he returned for the Winter Olympics, having switched to cross country ski-ing.

Cyclone Gita, still strengthening, set sights on Niue and Tonga

Having caused widespread flooding and damage in Samoa and American Samoa as a category two storm, Gita had veered southeast and was forecast to pass close to Niue's east coast overnight.

The Fiji Meteorological Service, which is responsible for warnings in the region, said Gita continued to intensify, and would likely do so for the coming day.

On current forecasts, it is expected to pass very close to the island's east coast, possibly as a category three storm.

Food safety verifiers needed in Tonga

Technical officer in the food division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests, Pelenitina Vao was awarded a training scholarship, which involved attending a two week course in Christchurch.

The scholarship scheme allows employed individuals to gain knowledge and skills that will contribute to the social and economic development of Tonga.

The programme included insight into food safety, hygiene protocols, food inspection, auditing and legislation.