16 Feb 2010

Tonga's Police Commissioner says some families were evacuated

11:32 am on 16 February 2010

Tonga's Police Commissioner says 25 families were evacuated from their homes last night on Tongatapu when the Cyclone Rene struck but no lives have been lost.

The cyclone hit Tongatapu last night at about seven after damaging houses and crops on Tonga's Vava'u group of islands to the north.

Commissioner Kelly says there is significant damage across the island of Tongatapu.

"There's widespread damage to crops and vegetation, bananas and coconut plantations, cassava. There is widespread to building, roofing irons off, windows blown out, whole range of that sort of damage as the result of last nights cyclone."

Commissioner Kelly says a meeting this morning will assess the depth of the destruction and because people had plenty of warning they were well prepared for the cyclone.

A Nuku'alofa resident says trees are blocking roads and power is still down in the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa.

Lee Miller, who runs a car rental business in Nuku'alofa, says her home has been spared apart from a water leak, but she says there's been some extensive damage.

There's tree damage on the main road into town plus many of the power lines are down, single phase and the main feed. Those that know Cafe Reef on the wharf, the power pole has demolished the roof of Cafe Reef.

The medical superintendent in the capital Nuku'alofa's main hospital, Dr Toa Fakakovi, says people seem to have taken the cyclone warnings seriously and taken good care of themselves.

Over the course of last night there were three to four people with small cuts in their feet. We were able to stitch them and send them home. Noone with trauma that had to be admitted to hospital. And so far there haven't been any casualties that I'm aware of.

Dr Toa Fakakovi says people need to take care to not injure themselves while cleaning up their homes.

The Fiji metservice says the cyclone has weakened and is now moving towards open seas.

However, a hurricane warning remains in force for Ata, while a gale warning remains in force for Tongatapu, Ha'apai, Nomuka groups, Eua and nearby smaller islands.