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One dead, widespread destruction in Tonga cyclone

Published on Jan 12, 2014 8:09 PM

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga (AFP) - The most powerful cyclone ever to slam into the South Pacific tourist destination of Tonga has destroyed villages, flattened trees and left at least one person dead, officials said on Sunday.

Up to 70 per cent of houses and buildings in the central Ha'apai islands group, which is home to about 8,000 people and bore the brunt of Cyclone Ian, were damaged or destroyed.

The Tongan government declared a state of emergency in the Ha'apai region after it was pounded by winds in excess of 105 knots (200kmh) which whipped up mountainous seas around coastal villages.

Although initial reports when the cyclone hit on Saturday said there had only been minor damage, the full extent of the destruction began to emerge when communications were partially restored a day later.

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