Nuku'Alofa (AFP) Feb 16, 2010
Tonga started counting the cost Tuesday of a powerful cyclone which swept through the Pacific island group, damaging buildings, destroying crops and knocking out power and communications.
"There have been no reports of injuries or fatalities on the main island (of Tongatapu)," National Disaster Management Office deputy director Maliu Takai said, after Cyclone Rene swept through Tonga's main island groups.
Troops were clearing fallen trees from roads in the Nuku'alofa and some homes had been damaged when roofing iron was ripped off and windows blown in when the cyclone slammed into the capital Monday evening, he said.
"There has not been as much damage as we expected from the cyclone," he said, adding the extent of damage in outlying villages was still unclear.
Communications were being restored Tuesday but power was still out in many areas of the capital and other parts of the main island of Tongatapu.
A local ship was driven onto the reef near Nuku'alofa and the roof of the sports stadium in the capital was badly damaged.
Extensive damage but no casualties were also reported Monday after the cyclone slammed into the other main island groups of Vava'u and Ha'apai, which lie to the north of Tongatapu.
Cyclone Rene was downgraded to category three from category four on a five-point scale on Monday before hitting Tongatapu, where about 70 percent of Tonga's 110,000 population live.
The Tongan Meteorological Service measured the top wind speed at 157 kilometres (about 100 miles) an hour around 7:00 pm on Monday night.
By midday Tuesday (2300 GMT Monday), the cyclone was 370 kilometres southwest of Nuku'alofa in open ocean and was slowly weakening.
Strong winds and heavy seas continued to buffet the capital Tuesday morning but were expected to ease during the day.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said his country was prepared to help Tonga recover from the cyclone once the damage had been assessed.
"At that point we'll be able to work out how New Zealand can respond and what's required," he told reporters.
A man was killed in American Samoa Friday when he fell from a building he was trying to secure against the cyclone's storm.
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Nuku'Alofa (AFP) Feb 15, 2010
Cyclone Rene slammed into northern Tonga early Monday after causing widespread damage in which one man in American Samoa died over the weekend. They category four cyclone - the second strongest on a five-point scale - was about 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) southeast of the northern island of Vava'u at 6 am local time (1700 GMT Sunday) and about 285 kilometres northeast of the capital Nuku'alo ... read more
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