Nuku'alofa - Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in
Tonga on Saturday when severe tropical cyclone Ula slammed into the tiny
However, there were no casualties after Prime Minister Akilisi
Pohiva declared a state of emergency before the storm hit "in order to
prevent or minimise the loss of human life, illness or injury".
The northern island of Vava'u took the brunt of the category three
cyclone wich was packing winds up to 150km per hour.
"We are very happy that there are no casualties, police
checked with hospitals and town officers to confirm that," the chairperson
of the National Emergency Management Office Siaosi Sovaleni told reporters at a
"We had 11 evacuation centres, over 390 people were relocated
to these evacuation centres."
The storm brought down trees, damaged crops, and the main airport
was closed to domestic flights.
The director of the Tonga meteorological office, Ofa Fa'anunu,
said it was fortunate there was little moisture around which would have
intensified the severity of the storm.
"On another day it would probably have become a (maximum)
category five," he said.
"If the moisture had been present it would have been the
right ingredients for development into a much stronger system."
The official Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre said in an advisory
that Ula had "very destructive winds" with "very high to
phenomenal seas" causing flooding in low-lying areas.
The hurricane warning for Vava'u was downgraded to a storm warning
early Saturday afternoon.
The tropical cyclone warnings for other island groups in Tonga
were also downgraded.
The storm is expected to weaken on Sunday as it heads towards
A year ago Tonga was hit by Cyclone Ian which left one person
dead, 4 000 homeless and destroyed crops on outlying islands.