Widespread damage in Tonga after Category 4 cyclone makes landfall

Feb. 12 (UPI) — The island nation of Tonga suffered widespread damage after a Category 4 cyclone made landfall Monday night in what officials described as the worst storm to hit the country in decades.

Tropical Cyclone Gita battered the island with winds of more than 144 miles per hour, destroying electricity lines, buildings and crops, The Guardian reported.

“It is the strongest cyclone to pass so close to the main islands of Tonga in the modern record (at least 60 years),” tweeted Britain’s Met Office.

However, as of Tuesday morning, officials have not reported any deaths.

“It was a terrifying night,” Graham Kenna from Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Among the destroyed structures was the country’s 100-year-old Parliament building.

“It’s an old building so there was always the possibility that that would occur,” said Tongan noble MP Lord Fusitu’a. “Successive legislatures over the years have suggested building a new parliament house and I guess that’ll be a necessity now.”

The storm also ripped the roof off the Tongan meteorological office and took its broadcasting station off the air.

The New Zealand government pledged $750,000 to help Tonga’s immediate recovery efforts.

“That will enable us to respond quickly to requests from the Government of Tonga to meet immediate needs, such as emergency shelter, water and sanitation,” New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said, according to Stuff. “We stand ready to provide additional support as the extent of the damage becomes clear.”