Tonga assesses Cyclone Winston damage

Tonga assesses Cyclone Winston damage

The number of homes damaged by Cyclone Winston in Tonga's northern islands has been revised up to more than 230.

Officials managed to reach the area today, after storm warnings stopped flights throughout the kingdom.

Ferocious and unpredictable, Cyclone Winton has left its mark on Vava'u's main town, Neiafu.

The damage is sporadic, but homes that did get hit didn't stand a chance.

"The family managed to move before any life was lost or injuries happened," says Tonga Red Cross' Norie Lauteau.

A family of six lived at the destroyed house, but everything they owned was claimed by the storm. The power of the winds was such that the roof was picked up and thrown metres from the property.

This was an already vulnerable community. Winston hit not once, but twice.

This church was reduced to rubble. Some power is still out and more than 230 homes were damaged.

"The roof was removed," says Mangia village resident Beni Kioa. "Everything inside was damp, water inside. The crops are all gone."

"They are going to need help to get back on their feet, particularly with food," says Red Cross Pacific advisor Hanna Butler. "The cyclone would have damaged a lot of crops, so it's not just the short-term impact; it's about helping them in the long term."

Residents say the older, government-owned houses were not structurally sound even before the storm hit.

"Lots of water was coming in," says Hunga village resident Viliani Latu, "just between the wall and roof. But I can see the home was not properly built."

Extra resources have arrived from the capital, including linesmen from Tonga Power, and there's plenty of work to do.

People know it could have been much worse.