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Samoa in state of disaster after strong tropical cyclone

12 February 2018

Oxfam is on standby to respond to Cyclone Gita, as latest forecasts predict the storm could intensify up to a category 5 cyclone before affecting Tonga later tonight.

Huge seas, torrential rain and damaging winds well over 200km/h are all expected in the southern Tongan island of Tongatapu overnight tonight.

Red Cross staff checking on people flooded out in Samoa.

Tropical Cyclone Gita bearing down on Tonga. Image
Tropical Cyclone Gita bearing down on Tonga. Image

Widespread power and water outages are impacting the area, and flood waters remain high throughout the community.

The International Date Line runs between Samoa and American Samoa, so the cyclone was at its peak intensity over Apia, Samoa early on Saturday morning and several hours later, battering Pago Pago on American Samoa, on Friday evening.

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

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It is already packing wind gusts of 220 kmh (137 mph) as it gathers strength some 370 kilometres east of Tonga's most populous island Tongatapu.

The storm is now a Category 4, and forecasters expect it could grow to a Category 5 by the time it strikes Tonga Monday night.

Ofa Fa'anunu from the Tonga Meteorological service says Gita will be the strongest cyclone on record to hit the Kingdom.

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A state of emergency has been declared.

She said people were out chopping down tree branches, removing iron or wood that could become risky in high winds, and identifying strong buildings that could become shelters.

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Samoa in state of disaster after strong tropical cyclone