Cyclone Jasmine flooding Tonga

Last updated 13:38 15/02/2012
Cyclone Jasmine
PARKED: Cyclone Jasmine parked in the Pacific Ocean.

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A long lasting tropical cyclone is hammering Tonga's main island of Tongatapu with major flooding occurring and phone and electricity lines down.

Cyclone Jasmine – which was born on February 4 over the Queensland city of Cairns – is now parked 120 kilometres west of Nuku'alofa, bringing heavy rains.

Nasa's Aqua satellite has captured an image of Jasmine showing a classic cyclone, but one which is virtually stationary.

Nasa says the image showed the strongest thunderstorms and heaviest rainfall appear to be on the north-eastern quadrant of the storm – placing it over the populated parts of the Tongan archipelago.

Family Facebook postings from Tonga show severe rain and heavy flooding.

The Legislative Assembly, which is debating an apology to New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully after a government official called him ''two-faced'', has now adjourned to allow politicians to help out with coping with the flooding.

The Tongan Meteorological Service said in a 1pm bulletin today that for Nomuka, Tongatapu, Eua and Southern Tonga waters there would be north to northeast winds around 55 kph gusting to 100 kph.

"Overcast with rain, heavy at times, flooding of low lying areas and rough to very rough seas," the warnings say.

The Honolulu based Joint Typhoon Warning Centre warns "maximum significant wave height" will be around 4.2 metres.

Jasmine has been the most powerful cyclone in the current season and has tracked right across the South Pacific, sparking alerts and storms in Australia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and parts of Fiji.

The centre predicts that later this week Jasmine will begin moving again, initially toward the southwest and New Zealand, before being pushed further south by a developing anti-cyclone.

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