25 Jan 2011

Tonga's north hit by Cyclone Wilma

2:38 pm on 25 January 2011

Tonga's National Disaster Office says the outer islands are feeling the full effects of Cyclone Wilma, that's now a category three storm.

The cyclone now has winds of up to 166 kilometers an hour and is over the Ha'apai group of islands, with a storm warning issued for the Vava'u group and Tongatapu, and a gale warning for Eua Island.

Mafua Maka, from Tonga's National Disaster Office, says he believes people in Tonga are better prepared for Cyclone Wilma, compared to last year's Cyclone Rene.

"For us, I think we are more prepared than before. We had more time to alert the community, more time to alert the NEC committee, and more time to prepare."

Mafua Maka of Tonga's National Disaster Office.

Cyclone Wilma has passed through American Samoa and Samoa, and a cyclone alert is in force for the southern Lau group islands in Fiji.

Samoa has been spared the full effects of Cyclone Wilma, with no state of emergency being issued.

But Samoa is still experiencing bad weather.

Our correspondent in Apia, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, says there's only been minor seawall and road damage reported in places due to high tides, as well as some surface flooding because of ongoing heavy rain.

He says people are being urged to boil water to be on the safe side.

Autagavaia says Samoans should still keep in mind that the cyclone season isn't over yet.

Even though we're lucky, not being hit by Cyclone Wilma, we still have February and March, the final months of this cyclone season. So we're still waiting for the cyclone season to go past Samoa, then we'll be alright.

Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia.