Feb. 11 (UPI) — A curfew was ordered overnight in Tonga as the eye wall of a Category 4 cyclone hammers the largest islands of the South Pacific nation.
Tropical Cyclone Gita made landfall Monday night, passing just south of the low-lying Tongatapu group of islands with 145-mph sustained winds.
Power supplies were switched off in parts of Tonga and a curfew was placed overnight to protect people from the storm.
“We are urging people to seek refuge from this severe cyclone that could be the most powerful in the country’s history,” Commissioner of Tonga Police Stephen Caldwell said.
Fiji’s Meterological Service reported that Gita’s central pressure was stronger than that of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas in August and was close to being upgraded to a Category 5 storm.
Damage was being reported Monday, although it is still too dangerous for residents to go outside.
“There’s a lot of damage in the city. We know that one of the Catholic churches is completely gone and others are damaged. We’ve had hundreds of calls during the night for assistance required for trees down on houses and people trapped in houses,” Graham Kenna of Tonga’s National Emergency Office told Radio New Zealand.
According to the National Hurricane Center in the United States, a Category 4 storm could tear off most roofs and some exterior walls.
“Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the center says.
Gita caused significant damage in Samoa and American Samoa, where it made landfall overnight Friday as a Category 3 storm.
The storm strengthened as it moved south, officials said