15 Feb 2010

Growing concern for northern Tongan islands being hit Cyclone Rene

9:13 am on 15 February 2010

There's growing concern for the residents of Vava'u and Ha'apai in the north of Tonga that have been thrashed by Cyclone Rene since the early hours of this morning.

Communciations with the area are still out.

The Category 4 cyclone had been predicted to cause severe destruction from early this morning

Chef Inspector Toia says given the makeup of the islands there's reason to be concerned:

"We are greatly concerned with the weather, the winds, the cyclone is tracking, when it comes to Ha'apai we have got low lying islands there and it is of great concern that we can't make any contact with either Vava'u or Ha'apai."

Strong winds are already being felt in the main island of Tongatapu, but the main part of the cyclone is not predicted to arrive until closer to lunchtime.

The Fiji Meteorological Service says Cyclone Rene is moving southwest at 12 knots towards central and southern Tonga where people have been advised to take precautions.

Rene has winds of 90 knots, or nearly 170 kilometres an hour close to the centre.

Samoa and American Samoa were spared the worst of Tropical Cyclone Rene which passed by on Saturday night.

But one man died in American Samoa after a fall from a building as he prepared for the cyclone.

In other parts of the territory, some trees were uprooted and there was flooding in some streets and slips.

The south east of Samoa's island of Upolu, which bore the brunt of the damage from last September's tsunamis disaster, felt Rene most as it passed by, but damage was limited to a few fallen trees.

A tropical cyclone gale warning that was in force for Niue has been cancelled.