HIGH WINDS BATTER TONGATAPU, STORM MOVES SOUTH

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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 14) – The Tonga capital was shut down for two days by Cyclone Vaianu, which brought damaging gale force winds and heavy rain - flooding many areas of southern Tonga.

Shops and offices in Nuku'alofa closed and boarded up their windows on Monday morning as Vaianu moved south on a track about 100 kilometers [62 miles] to the east of Tonga.

The capital's power supply was shutdown at about midday on Monday for 36 hours as the cyclone moved closer to Tongatapu. Heavy gale force winds battered Tongatapu on Monday night causing extensive damage to trees and bringing down breadfruit, avocados, mangos and other fruits, flattening bananas and damaging other food crops. Billboards were blown over near the Royal Palace and shops signs damaged with water damage to buildings.

Tonga Meteorological Office reported that Tropical Cyclone Vaianu was 130 miles to the South-South-West of Nuku'alofa at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Its center was at 23.3 South Latitude and 175.6 West Longitude. Vaianu has an average speed of 70 knots near its center, but it is expected to increase to 75 knots [86 miles per hour] within the next 12 hours. Vaianu is moving southeast at 8 to 10 knots. In its current path it will be about 175 miles to the south of Tongatapu at midnight Tuesday.

Heavy rain is expected at the west north west of Tongatapu and 'Eua, and there will be more flooding in low-lying areas. Meanwhile, a strong wind warning is still in force for Niuafo'ou, Niuatoputapu, Vava'u and Ha'apai.

[PIR editor’s note: Tongatapu is Tonga’s largest island where the national capital of Nuku’alofa is situated. ‘Eua is southeast of Tongatapu, whereas Ha’apai, Vava’u and the Niuas are located northeast of the island.]

The path of Cyclone Vaianu is illustrated at Cyclone Vaianu.

Due to the power shut down we regret Matangi Tonga Online was unable to deliver news for the last two days.

February 15, 2006

Matangi Tonga: www.matangitonga.to/nav.html

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