Tonga takes stock after Cyclone Ula creates widespread damage
Tonga is left reeling from Cyclone Ula, which passed over the Pacific kingdom on New Years day causing widespread damage.
Powerlines and telephone lines were damaged, plunging parts of Vava'u into darkness while roofs were ripped off buildings by the category three cyclone.
The Tongan Meteorological Service reported top wind speeds of 150kmph and rainfall reaching over 100mm.
A state of emergency was declared by Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva on Saturday for the Vava'u and Ha'apai islands and hundreds of people were evacuated to shelter.
Ula formed on Thursday between Tuvalu and Samoa and was initially expected to remain a category one storm as it tracked west-south-westerly. It later intensified to category three as it neared Tonga.
Aid organisation Oxfam and their partner organisation the Tonga National Youth Congress reported on Sunday it was too windy for any repair work to start and the sea was too rough for boat travel.
Carlos Calderon, Pacific Humanitarian Manager for Oxfam New Zealand, said the severity of the storm can be attributed to global temperature increases from the current super charged El Nino.
"Already, the people of Tonga have rung in the new year with a category three cyclone. Extreme weather events like Cyclone Ula are likely to become increasingly common,
"For many communities in the Pacific already affected by drought and flooding from king tides, life in 2016 looks like it's going to become even tougher." said Calderon.
In the coming days Oxfam will be sending humanitarian staff and supplies to Tonga to assess the damage and identify communities' most urgent needs.