Tonga

Tropical Cyclone Wilma Situation Update #1, 26 January 2011

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Situation Report
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This report was issued by OCHA SRO Fiji. It covers the period from 23 January 2011 to 26 January 2011.

- TC Wilma was declared on 23 January 2011, and upgraded to a Category 4 cyclone on 26 January. TC Wilma passed over Samoa, before it skirted around the Vava'u Islands, Tonga and impacted the Ha'apai group of islands in Tonga on 25 January as a Category 3

- Initial unconfirmed reports from 4 islands in the Ha'apai group indicate substantial damage to root crops and fruit trees, and minor damage to dwellings and jetties. No reports of death or injury.

- The National Disaster Council and Cabinet of the Government of Tonga met on 26 January, and an assessment team has subsequently been deployed to the Ha'apai group of islands.

- TC Wilma passed south of the Fiji Islands overnight (25 January), intensifying to a Category 4 over open ocean today (26 January). Within the next 48 hours, it is predicted to weaken to a category 3, heading for Norfolk Island, Australia. See map for past, present and predicted location of TC Wilma.

Situation Overview

Tropical Cyclone (TC) Wilma was declared on Sunday 23 January 2011 as a category 1 cyclone. By 25 January 2011 it was upgraded to Category 3. RSMC Nadi issued guidance warnings related to TC Wilma for Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Fiji, however early reports suggest that only the Ha'apai group of islands (pop. approx 7570 spread across 17 populated islands) in Tonga sustained significant damage.

As illustrated in the above map, TC Wilma formed above Samoa, briefly travelling across Samoa's western islands, before moving north towards Tonga. TC Wilma picked up speed and intensity once it had passed Tonga's northern Vava'u group.

The cyclone reached the Ha'apai island group just before midnight local time (UTC +13) on Tuesday 25 January 2011. The Category 3 cyclone brought winds with speeds up about 80knots (approx 150km/h). Early reports from partners in based in Tonga's capital on Tongatapu (NDMO, Tonga Red Cross and WHO) have included unconfirmed reports of considerable damage to root crops, fruit trees and minor infrastructure such as jetties and wharfs.

Given the cyclone coincided with high tide, damage to houses in low-lying coastal areas from sea surge flooding, is anticipated. Initial assessments from Tongan Red Cross found 8 houses totally destroyed, and 30 houses partially destroyed on 2 main islands (Lifuka and Foa) in the Ha'apai group. Tongan Red Cross also reports damage to 30 houses in 'Uiha island.

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