Cyclone Ian kills one
One person has been killed and extensive damage inflicted after Cyclone Ian ravaged Tonga yesterday.
The category-five hurricane tore across the Vava'u islands in the north, and the central Ha'apai islands in the south, before brushing the capital Nuku'alofa last night.
The Matangi Tonga website quoted Tonga Red Cross head, Sione Taumoefolau, as saying that a person was killed on Ha'apai's main island of Lifuka.
He said the island was devastated but that they were still only getting scattered reports from the region.
The Governor of Ha'apai, Tu'i Ha'angana, reported that he could see from one side of the island to the other and how "devastated" it was. There was extensive damage to the main islands of the area, Ha'ano Lifuka and Foa.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion left Auckland this morning to carry out an aerial survey of the damage and Foreign Minister Murray McCully said immediate aid would be offered.
"We will make $50,000 immediately available to respond to specific requests for assistance," he said.
Category five is the highest on the cyclone scale, and Ian is believed to be the first of its kind to hit Tonga.
It was also the first cyclone of the current South Pacific cyclone season.
The Tonga Meteorological Service said Ian was still a category five this morning, but it was moving into cooler open South Pacific waters and was expected to weaken today.
As a degraded storm it could meet the 86-year-old training ship Picton Castle, which left Opua on December 29, bound for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
The crew reported on Twitter they were watching Ian but did not expect to be impacted greatly.