Shirtless flag bearer's family safe after cyclone devastates Tonga

Cyclone Gita batters southern Fiji, upgraded to category five, heading for Vanuatu, New Caledonia

"It was a terrifying night", Graham Kenna from the National Emergency Management Office told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

There are 176 islands in the Kingdom of Tonga, with only 40 inhabited, and officials fear the damage could be even worse in the more isolated islands, where information is slow to come out.

The powerful Category 4 storm battered the South Pacific island nation with 145 miles per hour winds and heavy rain.

The full extent of damage is still being assessed.

Roofs were torn off buildings and Parliament was flattened.

Tonga's government declared a state of emergency before the storm hit, setting up evacuation centers which housed thousands of people overnight.

In Fiji, The Fiji Times reports Gita was expected to be located about 140 km west-southwest of Ono-i-Lau, or 300km southeast of Kadavu last night.

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No deaths have been reported to date and the cyclone has now left the South Pacific Polynesian Kingdom.

Power cuts, road closures, flooding and wind damage are possible in New Zealand next week.

In Tonga, publisher Pesi Fonua said fallen trees were littering the landscape and their absence was opening up new vistas.

Of course landfall in New Zealand is still not 100% locked in - we'll have more confidence by the end of this week but it's looking more likely with each day.

New Zealand MetService lead meteorologist Michael Martens said the Category 4 cyclone arrived in the southern Lau island group about 6pm yesterday, slowly passing through until about 10pm. Communities moved to higher ground as precaution to storm surges which is a lesson learned following tropical cyclone Winston.

Two of the New Zealand Pasifika media contingent in Tonga at work - John Pulu of Tagata Pasifika and TV1 News Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver.

The supplies from MFAT's emergency stores included 500 family hygiene kits, 200 shelter tool kits, 2300 10-litre collapsible water containers and 1000 tarpaulins.

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