The deadliest tropical cyclones to hit the South Pacific

One person was believed to have been killed and thousands more are displaced, after Cyclone Gita barrelled through Tonga on Monday night.

Samoa was also hit hard by the storm, while Fiji narrowly escaped a pummelling.

Although cyclones can be seen coming days in advance, that doesn't always stop the catastrophic - and often fatal - consequences that come with living in the tropical South Pacific area.

Here are seven of the deadliest tropical cyclones for the region* in the past five decades.


Cyclone Pam

Deaths: 24

Peak wind speed: 280km/h

There was a surprisingly low loss of life, considering Cyclone Pam's peak winds of 280km/h. It struck across Vanuatu in March, 2015, with locals bunkered down with supplies for days in advance.

Twenty-four people were killed across the islands.

But their crops weren't so lucky, with estimations that 90 percent were lost. Pam's financial toll was a reported $488 million, more than half of Vanuatu's yearly GDP.


Cyclone Kina

Deaths: 26

Peak wind speed: 150km/h

Most of Kina's deaths occurred in Fiji, where 23 people either drowned or were hit with flying objects as the cyclone tore through on December 23, 1992.

In Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa, two people drowned and another person was electrocuted.

Total losses from Kina were estimated at about $150 million.


Cyclone Martin

Deaths: 28

Peak wind speed: Unclear (the automatic weather station was destroyed as the storm passed over).

An island group in the Cook Islands, Manihiki, had every building destroyed over October and November, 1997, when Cyclone Martin tore through.

Ten people were killed and another 18 were killed across the wider Cook Island region and French Polynesia.

Seven of the 28 declared dead from Cyclone Martin on Manihiki were never found. Two decades later, a coroner finally had their deaths registered.


Cyclone Namu

Deaths: 40+ reported, 111 more unconfirmed

Peak wind speed: 120km/h

Namu formed north of the Solomon Islands on May 15, 1986, before passing directly over the country, leaving some regions with no houses standing.

On the island of Guadalcanal, a village of 43 people had only five survivors.

More than 100 more people were assumed dead in landslides and flooding, which caused more than $33 million in damages and another $135 million in economic losses, through lost cocoa, coffee and rice crops.

About 90,000 people - one third of the country's population - were left homeless.


Cyclone Winston

Death toll: 44

Peak wind speed: 280km/h

Throughout Fiji, 44 people were killed on February 20, 2016, and another 126 injured. Of the 900,000-strong population, an estimated 350,000 people were affected by the storm, with 40,000 homes damaged or destroyed.

Total damage amounted to $1.9 billion.


Cyclone Meli

Deaths: 50+

Peak wind speed: 155km/h

Fijian island Nayau was directly hit by Cyclone Meli on March 25, 1979, killing at least 50 people and uprooting most of the island's crop sector.

Twenty-one of those dead were women and children buried in a church, where they had taken refuge.


Cyclone Lottie

Deaths: 85+

Peak wind speed: Unclear

The storm was named Cyclone Natalie on December 10, 1973, but was renamed as Cyclone Lottie, when it moved into the South Pacific region later that day.

Lottie killed more than 85 people, when a ship - the Makogai - capsized in high seas near Fiji's Southern Lau Group, killing 30 people. Nearby, another vessel - the Uluilakeba - was heading to Suva, when it too capsized, killing another 54.

Forty-one people survived the Uluilakeba tragedy by clinging onto debris until they were rescued - some, days later.

Most of the bodies of those killed were never found.


*This is a list of the storms that resulted in the highest loss of life. There have been more severe storms, based on their wind speed, not included in this list.


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