26 Jan 2011

Tonga begins clean-up after Wilma hits

8:23 am on 26 January 2011

The owner of an exclusive tourist resort in Tonga's Ha'apai's Group is now busy repairing damage caused by Cyclone Wilma.

The island group got the worst of the category 3 storm as it passed through Tonga, bringing winds of up to 166 kilometres an hour.

The Sandy Beach Resort is operating on generators after losing power when Wilma hit.

Owner Boris Stavenow says all guests were kept safe, but the cyclone damaged water pipes and several bungalows got flooded by the very high tides.

"We're not really used to that strong winds. And more importantly that the wind coincided with the high tide and we're having full moon so its a spring tide. It was very high and so most of the damage done was through waves, rather than the wind."

Boris Stavenow says the neighbouring Matafanua lodge had four bungalows washed away.

He says many crops in the island group have also been badly damaged.

Disaster officials report around a dozen houses lost roofs, while a college was extensively damaged.