Cyclone forecast to lash Tonga on New Year's Day

By Te Ao - Māori News
Photo / Tonga Met Service

The cyclone that had a role in the deaths of two people in Fiji over the weekend, in which momentary wind gusts reached up to 170 kilometres per hour in areas, is forecast to strike Tonga on New Year's Day. 

The Tonga Met Service is forecasting a "very high potential for a tropical cyclone" in the Tonga area on Wednesday.

Category two Tropical Cyclone Sarai, which is moving slowly away from Fiji, is expected to lie about 290 kilometres west of the Tongan capital of Nukuʻalofa by 11.00pm tonight.

The Met Service says Tonga should prepare for at least one cyclone, and as many as four, this season. It says there is an eighty-five per cent chance of one category three tropical cyclone or above this season.

Tonga's tropical cyclone season runs from the start of November until the end of April, with the Met Service warning of possible enhanced tropical cyclone activity from mid-December to early January and from late February to mid-March 2020.

A spokeswoman for Fiji's National Disaster Management Office says an 18-year-old man drowned after being swept away by strong currents while swimming with friends and a man in his late 40s drowned crossing a river under similar conditions.

A 15-year-old is in intensive care in Suva after sustaining an injury from a fallen tree. 

The cyclone, which did not make landfall in Fiji but resulted in widespread flooding, has seen 2,538 people evacuated from their homes.