Cyclone Ian: one person dies

Tropical Cyclone Ian skirted Fiji before heading for Tonga, causing damage there. Photo / NASA
Tropical Cyclone Ian skirted Fiji before heading for Tonga, causing damage there. Photo / NASA

The cyclone that has wreaked havoc on Tonga has now cleared the Pacific nation after causing one death, damage to buildings, power and communication systems.

Tonga was pounded by Tropical Cyclone Ian, which had winds reaching 270km/h.

Tonga Red Cross head Sione Taumoefolau told the NZ Herald that a woman had been killed in Lifuka, a small island within the Ha'apai group of islands.

Ha'apai is said to have been the most severely hit by the category 4 cyclone, which had hovered over the island nation for the past few days.

Mr Taumoefolau said it was not yet known exactly how the woman died, however there have been reports of major damage to homes and buildings in Ha'apai.

The Tonga Red Cross was among a group of organisations that was preparing to fly out to the area with supplies and aid.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said New Zealand had deployed a P3 Orion to assist Tonga's government with aerial assessment of damage.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully today announced that New Zealand would make $50,000 immediately available to respond to specific requests for assistance.

``Our thoughts are with the people of Tonga as they begin to come to terms with the damaged caused by this cyclone.''

Early reports suggested damage to buildings in parts of Ha'apai, limited communications and power outages, he said.

More details would become available as Tongan authorities made assessments.

Further support would be considered as the full extent of the damage became clear and Tonga's government determined its priority response areas, Mr McCully said.

New Zealanders in Tonga were advised to follow the advice of the 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 well-being.

If they required consular advice they should contact the New Zealand High Commission in Nuku' alofa.

An MFAT spokeswoman said New Zealand was in close contact with Tongan emergency management authorities and stood ready to help if requested.

There were 114 New Zealanders registered with the ministry as being in Tonga.

Oxfam is accepting donations for its rapid response emergency fund online at www.oxfam.org.nz, by phone 0800 600 700, or text HELP to 4847 for an automatic $3 donation.

- APNZ

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