Feb. 12 (UPI) — Officials in Tonga declared a state of emergency Sunday as a potential Category 5 cyclone makes its way toward the South Pacific island nation.
Tropical Cyclone Gita is expected to make landfall between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time. Wind speeds are expected to lash the island at 124 to 142 miles per hour with torrential rains and waves up to 30 feet high, according to Weather Watch.
“We’re talking about Category 5, the strongest category for a cyclone,” said Ofa Fa’anunu, the director of Tonga’s Meteorological Service. “We need to move now to evacuation centers. No one will be able to move about tonight.”
“We have not had a category five cyclone strike the main island before and everyone is wondering how strong it will be,” said Polikalepo Kefu, Tonga’s Red Cross communications manager, according to The Guardian. “Tourists have mostly evacuated or they are staying in their hotels and being looked after by their heads of mission.”