Cyclone Gita is now a Category 5 storm – the highest level – as it moves away from the islands of southern Fiji, Fiji’s Meteorological service has said.
The cyclone hit Tonga hard on Monday night, causing widespread destructions and flooding as the tropical storm teared through the main island of Tongatapu, just south of the capital, Nuku’alofa, with winds exceeding 124mph at landfall.
Gita has already caused extensive damage in Samao and American Samoa over the weekend.
The cyclone continued to intensify as it moved away from Tonga and hit some of Fiji’s southern islands as a category-five storm during Tuesday evening and Wednesday (local time).
Around 2,500 people living on two of Fiji’s islands were at risk, the nation’s National Disaster Management Office told Radio New Zealand.
Fijian authorities were working to establish contact with some remote southern islands on Wednesday after the powerful storm took down communications.
However the Pacific Island’s most populated centres avoided serious damage.
There were reports of no doctors on the islands of Vatoa and Ono-i-Lau, where the Fiji Meteorological Service had forecast average wind speeds of 195km per hour, with gusts of up to 275km per hour overnight.
Cyclone Gita track: This map shows the current position of Cyclone Gita
Cyclone Gita track: The past and forecast track of the tropical storm
These islands were expected to be the most affected of the Fiji islands.
Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat programme said via Twitter that villagers on Ono-i-Lau had told it that crops and several houses had been destroyed, but there had been no reports of injuries.
“The Cyclone is currently located about 220 kilometres south of Kadavu – that’s the island within the southern parts of Fiji,” forecaster Rajneel Prasad said.
“The Cyclone has actually intensified into a category 5 system as of this morning (Tuesday evening GMT) and it is gradually moving westwards at a speed of 15 kilometres an hour.”
Cyclone Gita track: The projected path of Cyclone Gita
Cyclone Gita track: The storm has been upgraded to a category 5 storm
Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office said three homes had been completely destroyed on Ono-i-Lau.
Radio NZ reported that police from Lakeba had travelled to boat to the island but no casualties or injuries had been reported so far, however these were initial reports.
“We have only received reports of three completely destroyed houses and we are just working around trying to ascertain the nature of these structures,” Director Anare Leweniqila said.
Forecast tracking by Tropical Storm Risk had the cyclone moving westwards and then heading south and avoiding New Caledonia.
Cyclone Gita is scheduled to pass south of New Caledonia on Saturday before travelling south into the Tasman sea.