Tonga braces for Cyclone Gita after storm batters Samoa

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The Category 4 storm was moving south across the Pacific and was expected to hit Tonga's, capital, Nuku'alofa, by 7 p.m. on Monday (0600 GMT).

Tropical Cyclone Gita formed on Tuesday over the Wallis and Fortuna Islands in the southwest Pacific, headed east to the Samoan Islands and is now continuing its clockwise motion and aiming directly for Tonga.

A state of emergency has been declared in the island kingdom.

The storm is now a Category 4, and forecasters expect it could grow to a Category 5 by the time it strikes Tonga Monday night.

"Communities on the main island of Tongatapu are low lying, making them vulnerable to flooding from rain and sea surges", says Ian McInnes, Tearfund CEO and Chair of the Council for International Development.

The cyclone has caused flooding, brought trees down and caused about 200 people to seek safety in evacuation centres in Samoa.

McInnes said members of the group's partner association in Tonga - 'Ola Fou - had humanitarian specialists were also preparing to co-ordinate and implement an aid response if one is needed in the coming days.

Kiwi website WeatherWatch said weather models suggested Gita would track further southward towards the New Zealand area next weekend, or early the following week.

The UN's World Risk report lists Tonga as the second-most disaster-prone country in the world, after Vanuatu.

"Once the urgent needs are assessed, we are expecting to help co-ordinate the supply of clean water and sanitation for those affected by the disaster".

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