3 Jan 2020

Tonga cancels cyclone alert for Kingdom

9:32 am on 3 January 2020

Tonga's Meteorology Service says Tropical Cyclone Sarai has been downgraded to a low pressure system as it moves southeast and away from the Kingdom.

The Tropical Cyclone Warning for Tonga is now cancelled.

The Fua'amotu Tropical Cyclone Warning Center was officially deactivated at 12pm today.

Tropical Cyclone Sarai had caused minor damage on Tonga's main island, Tongatapu, with some flooding in areas with poor drainage, fallen power lines, and flattened vegetation.

Tropical Cyclone alert now issued for Niue

Tropical Cyclone Sarai now moving away from Tonga. Photo: Fiji Meteorological Service

National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) director Mafua Maka told Matangi Tonga there were no injuries, deaths, or major damage reported.

"The damages were mainly [to] banana and hoppa trees and fallen power lines, particularly around Hihifo. Tonga Power linesmen have been working on the lines," he said.

Evacuation centres were opened ahead of the cyclone but there were no reports of people seeking shelter Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, staff from NEMO, soldiers and police were continuing to monitor areas as Tropical Cyclone Sarai moves away, he said.

The major damage so far was caused by the tornado, which ripped through Ha'ateiho homes on Monday, but there were no injuries or deaths reported.

"That was unexpected. We haven't had a tornado in a long while," Maka said.

Flight cancellations

On the basis of the weather forecasts from both Fiji and Tonga all international flights to Tonga were cancelled, except for the early morning arrival from Sydney at 1.20am.

Paul Karalus from the Tonga Airport Services at Fua'amotu International Airport said 1220 seats were cancelled (550 for Fiji Air, 350 for Air New Zealand and 320 for Virgin Australia).

He believed the worst of the cyclone passed Tonga 12 hours earlier than was forecast.

However, Air New Zealand was expected to bring in a larger plane when flights resumed from today.

The associated warnings which are currently in-force for Tonga.

A strong wind warning remains in force for the Niuas, Vava'u, Ha'apai, Tongatapu, 'Eua, Tele-ki-Tonga and Tokelau land areas and coastal waters.

A small craft advisory remains in-force for all Tonga coastal waters

A Heavy Damaging Swell remains in-force for the Vava'u, Ha'apai, Tongatapu, 'Eua, Tele-ki-Tonga and Tokelau land areas and coastal waters.

Members of the public are advised to remain alert and vigilant and to take note of the current warnings.