Samoa swept by Cyclone Gita

Second named cyclone of the South Pacific season damaged the Samoan Islands and could be catastrophic for Tonga.

    A clean-up is continuing in the two Samoas after Tropical Cyclone Gita hit on Saturday morning.

    There was extensive flooding, rivers burst their banks and houses were inundated. More than 200 people in Samoa needed emergency shelter. Apia, the capital, measured 425mm of rain over the last four days, the heaviest fall, giving 148mm, during Friday night.

    A state of disaster was declared.

    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.

    In American Samoa, the governor, Lolo Matalasi Maliga, said there was extensive damage to homes and utilities. Power supplies were cut and phone lines were taken down. Schools and businesses were ordered to shut down.

    Tropical Cyclone Gita formed on Tuesday over the Wallis and Fortuna Islands in the southwest Pacific, headed east to the Samoan Islands and is now continuing its clockwise motion and aiming directly for Tonga.

    While Gita was upgraded to Category 2 as it threatened Niue on Saturday night, a change of direction lifted the threat and there have been no reports of significant damage. Niue was spared the full force of Tropical Cyclone Gita but the cyclone is heading towards Tonga and picking up strength.

    The acting chief meteorologist at Tonga Met service, Gary Vite, said that Gita could become a Category 4, severe tropical cyclone, by the time it reaches the kingdom. "And the possibility is very high to intensify along the way up to our area, but we are still monitoring the movement and strength."

    Additional reporting by RNZ.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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