Nuku Alofa (Tonga), Jan 2 Tonga declared a pre-emptive state of emergency today as severe tropical cyclone Ula hit the tiny Pacific kingdom.
Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva took the precautionary action because “an emergency is happening or is about to happen” with winds up to 150 kilometres per hour (93 miles per hour) and rising sea levels. “It is necessary for the emergency powers to be exercised in order to prevent or minimise the loss of human life, illness or injury, property loss or damage and damage to the environment,” he said.
Later today, the category three storm was passing near the northern island of Vava’u where there were reports of damage to crops and houses.
Ula has the potential “to cause major property damage, significant infrastructure and crop damage, local power failure and there is a high risk of injuries from a category three cyclone,” the official Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre said in an advisory. It warned of “very destructive winds” with “very high to phenomenal seas” causing flooding in low-lying areas.
The cyclone is expected to weaken tomorrow as it heads towards Fiji. A year ago Tonga was hit by Cyclone Ian which left one person dead, 4,000 homeless and destroyed crops on outlying islands.