Pangaimotu resort begins long road to recovery after almost complete destruction in Cyclone Gita

Islands off the coast of Tongatapu are continuing to assess the damage from Cyclone Gita.

Pangaimotu is one the country's most popular areas for locals and tourists, but it was severely hit when Gita passed through on Monday night.

It's a short journey to the island, one that thousands of tourists make every year.

But it's clear on approach, there will be no holidays here for long time.

Palm trees are flattened; the resort bar and restaurant are destroyed.

It's a stark difference to what it looked like just days ago, but owner Earl Emberson feared of losing much more.

"Three of four times I thought this was it," he said.

Mr Emberson and his wife Ana have managed Pangaimotu's resort and bar for decades.

The pair sought refuge during the storm in a back kitchen, hoping for the best.

"I say to myself we don't want to die anyway," said Ms Emberson.

"I want to stay alive, looking at my kids, how they grow up".

Anyone who's visited the island will know Ms Emberson - they call her "big momma".

On Thursday she was putting on a brave face.

"I feel like to cry but why I cry because this going to happen anyway."

Pangaimotu is usually full of people but now it's a complete mess. The clean-up will take months, and cost more than NZ$150,000.

But it's already well under way.

Earl was the first person to build in Pangaimotu, back in 1972.

He and his wife are now determined this is not the end for their island escape.

"We're down but we're on our knees now, it's not a complete knockdown. It's just that we're on our knees and we're getting up slowly," he said.

Slowly but surely, he's promising Pangaimotu will be once again open for business.



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