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Cyclone Gita, still strengthening, sets sights on Niue and Tonga

04:41 Sun Feb 11, 2018

Taken from/By: Radio NZ International
Report by: Radio NZ International

Residents on Niue were battening down the hatches on Saturday afternoon as Cyclone Gita sets its sights on the island.

Having caused widespread flooding and damage in Samoa and American Samoa as a category two storm, Gita had veered southeast and was forecast to pass close to Niue’s east coast overnight.

The Fiji Meteorological Service, which is responsible for warnings in the region, said Gita continued to intensify, and would likely do so for the coming day.

On current forecasts, it is expected to pass very close to the island’s east coast, possibly as a category three storm.

The latest cyclone warning said Niue was likely to experience damaging winds, heavy rain and squally thunderstorms and damaging heavy swells as Gita approached.

The police chief, Tony Edwards, said residents were securing their houses and preparing for Gita’s arrival.

He said authorities would meet this afternoon, and it was likely that a curfew would be imposed before nightfall.

“My intention is to increase the alert, and the only reason I would increase that would be because we’re going into nightfall,” Mr Edwards said.

“People need to be prepared so that when it’s dark I don’t want anyone outside trying to prepare themselves. Usually when we make the next alert, which is the yellow alert, we stop everything on island. Nothing is to happen.”

New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Niue, Ross Ardern, said the National Disaster Mangement Office is doing a superb job at communicating information about the cyclone and its likely impact.

“They are communicated via radio and by television,” Mr Ardern said.

“The updates are on a very regular basis so people are very cognisant of what level of alert we’re at and what preparations they should take.”

From Niue, the cyclone is forecast to complete a westward arc, and head towards Tonga’s densely populated and low-lying main island, Tongatapu, on Monday.

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