Cyclone Rene reaches N Tonga islands

09:38, February 15, 2010      

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Tropical Cyclone Rene, which has been upgraded to a category 4 storm, hit Vava'u and Ha'apai islands in the north of Tonga early Monday.

The storm was carrying winds of nearly 170 km an hour close to its center.

Chief Inspector Toia, who was in the capital Nuku'alofa, said she had spoken to colleagues on both islands who told her there was already damage to trees and crops, Radio New Zealand International reported.

Flooding was expected in coastal areas and people there had been told to move to higher ground.

The tropical cyclone was moving southwest at 12 knots toward central and southern Tonga, the Fiji Meteorological Service said.

The south Pacific island country's National Disaster Management Office said the office was considering evacuation plans in case of storm surges.

Strong winds were already being felt in the main island of Tongatapu, but the main part of the cyclone is not predicted to arrive until closer to lunch time.

Samoa and American Samoa were spared the worst of Tropical Cyclone Rene which passed by on Saturday night.

But one man died in American Samoa after a fall from a building as he prepared for the cyclone.

The southeast of Samoa's island of Upolu felt Rene most as it passed by, but damage was limited to a few fallen trees.

A tropical cyclone gale warning that was in force for Niue has been canceled.

Source: Xinhua
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