A battered Nuku’alofa began cleaning up Tuesday after the most powerful cyclone ever recorded in the Tongan capital tore roofs off buildings, downed powerlines and caused extensive flooding, prompting a state of emergency in the tiny Pacific nation.
Veteran disaster management officials were shocked at the fury of Severe Cyclone Gita as it unleashed 230 kmh (142 mph) winds on Tonga’s most populous island Tongatapu.
Historic wooden buildings in the heart of Nuku’alofa, including parts of Tonga’s parliament, were reduced to matchsticks as the tempest hit overnight.
Broken power poles and trees blocked the roads and sheets of corrugated iron stripped from homes littered the capital.
“It was a particularly bad night,” Graham Kenna, from the National Emergency Office, told Radio New Zealand. “I’ve been involved in disaster response for 30-plus years and it was the worst situation I’ve been