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More than 100 families in Vava'u and Ha'apai evacuated, Tonga’s agriculture sector suffers major damage

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Destruction left behind by Tropical Cyclone Winston in Vava'u last night has exceeded damages caused by Tropical Cyclone Ula last month, reports Radio & TV Tonga News.

The agriculture sector in the outer islands of Vava’u, Ha’apai and Niuas bore the brunt of the Tropical Cyclone Winston.

In Vava'u, over 80 percent of homes were partially damaged from the heavy rain.

Speaking to Radio Tonga News, the Police Superintendent on Vava'u, Netane Falakiseni said rooftops were blown away and flash floods in low lying areas affected the transfer of patients at the Prince Wellington Ngu hospital.

Nine patients had to be transferred to another wing at the hospital due to floods.

The town officer of Makave, Setaleki Lea said eight homes were damaged from the cyclone but most of the destruction were done to vegetation and food gardens.

On Niuatoputapu, Radio Tonga’s correspondent on the island, Losaline Pongi said most of the breadfruits and banana trees were destroyed.

Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni told Parliament this morning that about 140 families each in Vava'u and Ha'apai sought shelter in town and church halls last night.

During Parliament session, Veivosa Taka, the People's Representative of Ha'apai urged government to help the people of Ha'apai because the cyclone had destroyed most of the island’s agricultural produce.

In response, Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva urged residents of Ha'apai not to rely on government assistance but grow root crops that ensure food security in times of disaster.

Today Tropical Cyclone Winston continued to intensify and was upgraded to a severe Category 3 cyclone as it moves away from Tongan waters towards Niue and Samoa.

Although Tropical Cyclone Winston is moving away, local meteorologists are monitoring the TC’S Winston’s because it has a possibility to re-curve and head back to Tonga in the next 36 and 48 hours.

The Director of Tonga's MET office, 'Ofa Fa'anunu confirmed this while speaking over Radio Tonga News earlier today.

“Cyclone Winston is now heading out from Vava'u, the latest position at 10 this morning it was 255km North East of Neiafu and moving about 22km per hour. Cyclone Winston has been upgraded to Category 3 storm which is categorized as a severe cyclone with estimated wind speed of 65 Knots and gusting up to 85 knots. The concern now for the next 36- 48 hours is that the current forecast for Cyclone Winston shows that it is moving North East and approaching Niue in the next 24 hours. It is forecast to recurve and head back to the Tonga groups by Friday evening or Saturday morning.

“We will remain on high alert on the TC Winston although it has moved away from Vava'u now. We will keep issuing the Tropical Cyclone alert for Tonga until we can confirm which part of Tonga the cyclone will likely to affect in the next 36 hours, said Fa’anunu.