February 13, 2018 / 9:44 PM / 9 days ago

Fiji escapes widespread damage from Cyclone Gita - official

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) - Fiji has escaped major damage from the Category 4 cyclone that tore through the Pacific Island nation overnight, a government official said on Wednesday, with no major population centres affected.

Cyclone Gita brought winds of up to 275 km per hour and heavy rain across Ono-I-Lau and Vatoa, Fiji’s southernmost islands, knocking out communications, although Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office said early reports showed limited damage.

“The only reports received of damage to homes are from Ono-i-Lau. Three homes have been completely destroyed and four damaged. Overall, damage to infrastructure has been minimal,” Anare Leweniqila, director of Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office, told Reuters.

Leweniqila said crops on both islands had been damaged, but Fiji’s most populated centres escaped serious harm as Cyclone Gita passed south of Fiji’s capital, Suva.

Gita caused extensive damage in Samoa and American Samoa at the weekend, and hit Tonga hard on Monday night, causing widespread destruction and flooding.

Forecast tracking by Tropical Storm Risk had the cyclone moving westwards and then heading south, avoiding New Caledonia.

Reporting by John Mair in Wellington; Reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Peter Graff and Eric Meijer

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