There were no report of deaths or severe injuries due to severe Tropical Cyclone Harold reported to the Tonga National Emergency Management Committee at its 7:00pm disaster meeting last night, Thursday 9 April, but there was severe coastal damage. The ‘Eua Wharf was destroyed when tsunami-like waves hit Tongatapu and 'Eua coastlines.
Acting Deputy Commissioner ‘Atunaisa Taumoepeau, confirmed there were no deaths or injuries reported by Thursday evening.
He said Police had been out in full force since very early Thursday morning helping to clear roads from fallen trees and debris, while assisting people where needed.
Roads were cleared quickly yesterday morning as defence and firefighters helped in the task.
The national curfew during the national lockdown was enforced on Thursday night at 8:00pm.
Extreme tidal surge
Tsunami-like waves hit Tongatapu and 'Eua coastlines early Thursday morning, destroying the wharf at ‘Eua and badly damaging the international berths at Queen Salote Wharf in Nuku'alofa.
Beach resorts along the southern coast of Tongatapu were destroyed, and coastal homes flooded. A storm surge nearly a metre above the king tide, ran into the capital dumping sand and gravel onto coastal roads and flooding low-lying properties.
Homes at the fishing village on the Patangata sand spit in Nuku'alofa were flooded by waves and fishing boats destroyed.
'Ofa Fa'anunu, Director for Meteorology said today that the storm surges of over 2.4 to 2.7m had done more damage than the wind.
“The conditions of the cyclone's arrival converging with the high tide and the full moon, meant the sea was running inland about one metre above its usual highest level, which was quite devastating,” he said.
“The tidal gauge at the wharf recorded 86cm above the king tide,”
The king tide at 8:13am was predicted at 1.87m, not counting the storm surge.
The winds peaked over southern Tonga at around 7:00am, as the eye of Severe TC Harold passed Tongatapu 90-100km to the south, moving in south easterly direction, and pushing the storm surge on top of the king tide.
“There were Category 3-4 winds around the eye but the eye did not go through Tongatapu,” he said.
The winds recorded over Tongatapu and ‘Eua were only Category 2 winds between 50-75knots.
“The highest recorded gust was around 80km/hr at ‘Eua Airport before 7:00am.”
“The winds weren't that strong but the rain was very heavy so it made it seem worse, the gusts were Cat. 2-3.”
'Ofa said that he was on radio on Wednesday night warning coastal areas of the extreme conditions expected.
“We had anticipated the extreme high tides and tired to give warnings with NEMA officials to explain and tell people to expect tsunami like waves,” he said.
He believed that residents at Vakaloa Resort had evacuated and a watchman there witnessed the destructive waves breaking into the property. The army had checked the area.
He was told that three metre waves had gone through the Chief Justice's residence on the coast at Fo'ui.
“ ‘Eua Wharf was totally destroyed, it looks like a big rugby field filled in with rocks.”
“There was also major damage to the main wharf that handles international shipping. Containers were shifted around and damage to vehicles that were on the wharf waiting to be released.”
'Ofa said the converging conditions of the cyclone, king tide and storm surge were similar to previous cyclones of around Cat. 2 that destroyed wharfs in Ha'apai.
The power and internet went down at the Matangi Tonga office during TC Harold and the sea came up to our doorstep. Tonga Power Ltd crews were working throughout the night and today Good Friday to restore power. We hope to have the internet and telephone lines restored when TCC reopens.
- Reporting by Mary Lyn Fonua, Linny Folau and Eleanor Gee.
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