Cyclone Gita passes south of Fiji and moves west out to sea

Source: 1News

Cyclone Gita, which ravaged Tonga over Monday night hours, has now passed out to sea away from the Southern Lau islands of Fiji.

But contact has been lost with the Lau islands of Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa as wind gusts of up to 190km/h hammered the islands.

Fiji's National Disaster Managment Office Director Anare Leweniqila confirmed to Fiji News they were unable make contact the islands.

Winds from the cyclone hit the islands but Fiji Meteorological Services Director, Ravin Kumar told Fiji News the cyclone did not make direct landfall on Ono-i-Lau.

Live updates from yesterday:

6.15pm: That's all for our updates today. If there are any more developments tonight we will be back with the latest.

6.10pm: The Salvation Army says their phones have been "ringing off the hook and our emails going crazy with news from Tonga today". 

Their team on the ground are preparing to help with the clean up as they are needed. 

5.50pm: NZDF C-130H Hercules departs Auckland for Tonga. 

5.40pm: MFAT have told 1 NEWS NOW, 105 New Zealanders have voluntarily registered on SafeTravel as being in Fiji, none of them are listed as being in the Southern Lau islands. 

5.27pm: Update on the NZDF 's aid for Tonga: One of the New Zealand Air Force's C-130H Hercules is on its way to deliver 12 tonnes of aid supplies and a 10-member team to Tonga to assess the damage wrought by Cyclone Gita. 

5.15pm: Fiji's National Disaster Management Office has offered some words of hope for their island neighbour.

5.05pm: Shelter kits have been dropped off to Siesia Island in Tonga where homes have been damaged by the cyclone.

4.50pm: From 5pm this evening Vodafone is opening up free calling and texts to Tonga for all customers for the next 48 hours.

"With reports of widespread devastation we don't want people with family and friends in Tonga worrying about how they have fared, so we are making it as easy as possible for them to get in touch," says Consumer Director Matt Williams. 

4.40pm: The Australian Goovernment is providing emergency humanitarian assistance to Tonga. 

4.30pm:  Fiji Meteorological Service says, sustained winds of up to 135km/h and gusts of up to 190km/h are currently being experienced at Ono-i-Lau. 

They are also reporting that more than 140mm of rain has fallen at Ono-i-Lau since 9am this morning. 

4.22pm: Tonga Red Cross has started distributing tarpaulins and hygiene kits to people affected by Cyclone Gita. 

4.15pm: 1 NEWS weather presenter Dan Corbett has the latest forecast: Cyclone Gita barrels across Tonga while moisture from Tropics causes rain across parts of the North Island.

4.10pm: Government gives $750k initial aid package to cyclone-ravaged Tonga to 'meet its immediate needs'.

4.05pm: MFAT are urging any Kiwis in Fiji to avoid all non-essential travel to the Southern Lau group of islands 

3.55pm:  According to t he Fiji Broadcasting Corporation , villagers are preparing to evacuate to emergency centres in Fiji's southern islands as Cyclone Gita approaches. 

On the island of Kadavu and Lomiaviti villagers say the weather is calm at the moment, but they are preparing for the worst.

In Nasau in Kadavu the village community hall has been converted into an evacuation centre.

3.46pm: A P-3K2 Orion is on its was to conduct an aerial survey of the Cyclone Gita damage in Tonga. 

The Royal NZ Air Force hopes this will assess the scale of damage and help Tongan authorities determine next steps in their emergency response. 

3.38pm: Sia Adams from the Tonga Police has confirmed there were "three major injuries and 30 minor injuries" from the tropical cyclone in Tongatapu last night. 

3.30pm: The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji ( MSAF ) has advised all ship owners to cease travel in Central and Eastern divisions of Fiji, smaller vessels have been asked to exercise caution during the approach of severe Tropical Cyclone Gita. 

3.20pm: The World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific are prepared to deploy medicines, and personnel to the affected islands if needed. 

3.15pm:   Relief supplies for Cyclone-ravaged Tonga prepped by busy NZ Defence personel.

3.10pm: From the Green Party: "Our hearts go out to the people of the Kingdom of Tonga at this tragic time of devastation from Cyclone Gita. We stand in support to help our proud Pacific neighbours."

3.00pm: Winds are picking up in the capital of Fiji, Suva this afternoon.

2.56pm: The Fiji Roads Authority has closed off certain roads as Cyclone Gita approachs. 

2.40pm: Incredible image from the Himawari Satellite shows Tropical Cyclone Gita swirling over the South Pacific. 

2.35pm: Phone company Digicel is offering free mobile credit of $10 for customers, in an effort to help people update their loved ones. 

2.25pm: NZ Defence Force preparing aid supplies to assist Tonga.

2.21pm: Fiji Meteorological Service's latest update can be found here

2.10pm: The National Disaster Management Office in Fiji is advising communities on the islands of Southern Lau, including Ono-i-Lau, Vatoa, Fulaga, Kabara, Moce, Komo, Namuka-i-Lau, Ogea, Oneata, Lakeba, and other nearby islands to prepare for Cyclone Gita.

The Fiji Meteorological Service forecast that the cyclone will pass south of Ono-i-Lau as a Category 4 system tonight. 

Village disaster committees are also being encouraged to hold meetings and implement their disaster readiness plans. 

As the cyclone hits tonight storm surges are expected to accompany damaging gale fore winds, so community leaders are being told to make known existing safe evacuation centres on high ground. 

2.00pm: Emergency relief supplies are set to depart New Zealand for Tonga this afternoon. A RNZAF C130 Hercules aircraft is carrying family hygiene kits, shelter kits, jerry cans and tarpaulins. 

It will also carry a New Zealand government team to support the New Zealand High Commission assess emergency needs and respond to requests from the Government of Tonga. 

"The full extent of damage caused by Cyclone Gita is still being assessed by there is an immediate need for assistance on the ground," says Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters.

"About 5,700 people sought shelter in evacuation centres overnight, and it is expected these numbers will increase substantially tonight."

The plane will land at Fua'amotu International Airport in Tongatapu, which is open to emergency supply aircraft only. A visual inspection of the international airport has shown the runway to be intact with minimal damage. 

1.50pm: MetService have shared a satellite image of Gita as it continues to move westward. 

1.45pm: Current situation in Tonga according to Sia Adams who works for the local police...

1.40pm: The Fiji National Disaster Management Office are on a 24 hour standby and are prepared to respond to affected communities after the cyclone passes through. 

It's expected to Fiji's southern Lau island group about 6pm tonight

1.35pm: NIWA Weather have shared a video showing the moisture connection between Tropical Cyclone Gita and the North Island today. 

1.25pm: UNICEF  Pacific are getting emergency supplies ready for shipment to Tonga and Samoa, including water field test kits, family water, sanitation and hygiene kits, inter-agency emergency health kits and tents.  

1.20pm:  Tongan local residents' social media photos show carnage left behind by unrelenting Cyclone Gita. 

Take a look at our photo gallery here .

1.15pm: Tonga Police are urging locals to stay home and "look after your families and properties". They are asking residents to free up roads for emergency response teams. 

"It's important you're safe and not walking around barefoot."

1.10pm: Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has warned residents in the line of Cyclone Gita to "heed warnings and prepare".

He tweeted: "Tonga is in our prayers in the wake of #TCGita, the strongest cyclone to ever strike our island neighbour. Fijians in the storm's projected path, especially our southern Lau group (Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa), heed the warnings and prepare - Gita is gaining strength."

1.05pm: Red Cross volunteers are out in full force today, getting to communities hit by Cyclone Gita. They are also delivering communal tanks to areas that need water. 

12.39pm: Cyclone Gita is intensifying and is likely to be a category-5 storm when it reaches Fiji's southern Lau island group about 6pm tonight . Locals are taking shelter and those have not already and being urged to evacuate if possible. Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reports gusts on Ono-I-Lau have already reached more than 120kmh.

12.17pm: Tongan Police say they have not had any contact from their station on the eastern island of 'Eua since last night at 11.30pm. Tonga Red Cross members are also trying to reach 'Eua for a damage assessment.

11.59am: Spark says it will credit customers the cost of their landline and mobile calls and texts to Tonga and Samoa following Cyclone Gita from 9am today until 9am Thursday. Customers do not need to sign up - the credits will be automatically attributed to their account in either their March or April bill cycle.

11.22am: There are no confirmed deaths so far, but at least three people have been seriously injured. At least 6000 people went to shelters before the storm hit, which authorities say contributed to the low death and injury rate.

11.00am: More footage has emerged of the destruction in the Tongan capital of Nukua'alofa. Footage taken by Lenny Folau in the main streets shows considerable damage to numerous buildings, and people beginning to clear away debris.

10. 52am: A spokesperson for the Council for International Development says the best way for Kiwis to help those in Tonga is to send cash, not items. They recommend the following charities:

Habitat for Humanity’s Cyclone Gita Emergency Appeal will support shelter and rebuilding.

Tearfund’s Cyclone Gita Appeal will provide immediate relief and helps communities recover.

Rotary Foundation provide practical support for families including emergency supplies.

Caritas Aoteroa and Oxfam New Zealand are also supporting emergency response in the Pacific.

10.48am: Cabinet minster Jenny Salesa has received word from Tonga where she has family, and has confirmed they are all safe. She said she has not yet been able to speak with them directly, but that they are all alive.

10.12am : Winston Peters says an initial fund of NZ$750,000 will be allocated to providing aid to Tonga in the form of emergency shelter, water and sanitation. "We stand ready to provide additional support as the extent of the damage becomes clear," Mr Peters said in a statement. "Given the force of this Cyclone all signs point to a lengthy clean-up effort and our thoughts are with the Government and people of Tonga as they come to terms with the scale of this disaster".

10.00am: Long range forecast models continue to suggest that Cyclone Gita, or its remnants, could make its way to New Zealand.

9.38am: 1 NEWS Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver is outside Tonga's Parliament House, which has been completely destroyed by Cyclone Gita.