A category 4 cyclone flattened Tonga's parliament

Cyclone Gita passed south of Fiji's main islands about midnight. NIWA warns it could loop south to New Zealand

The destruction of the cyclone left three people with serious injuries and 30 others with minor injuries in Tongatapu, Tongan Police spokeswoman Sia Adams said.

The thoughts and prayers of all Fijians are with our people in southern Lau who are enduring the ordeal of Tropical Cyclone Gita.

Seoul: A Seoul court sentenced Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of former President Park Geun-hye, to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for a string of corruption charges linked to a massive influence-peddling scandal that led to Park's impeachment. There are 176 islands in the Kingdom of Tonga, with only 40 inhabited, and officials fear the damage could be even worse in the more isolated islands, where information is slow to come out.

Reds prop Taniela Tupou has issued an emotional plea for help after his family's house was destroyed in Cyclone Gita.

Peters added that about 5,700 people sought shelter in evacuation centers on Monday night, and the number will likely increase on Tuesday.

"There on the ground, it just seems there's a lot of devastation and a lot of damage, and I'm just hopeful not too many lives have been lost". However, Tonga's century-old parliament building is among the confirmed structural casualties.

"Wind was blowing and we heard roofing torn and flying over, it was quite scary", NEMO director Leveni Aho told the ABC.

Tonga is made up of over 170 islands, and it is located in the South Pacific Ocean to the east of Fiji and North of New Zealand.

Gita will then move to the south of New Caledonia, and as it makes its way into cooler waters, it will steadily weakening on its way towards New Zealand.

But experts predict it will miss the country's most densely populated areas.

Hurricane warnings initially set for the Fijian islands of Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa on Tuesday were downgraded to a storm warning after Gita headed west, the Fiji National Disaster Management Office said.

In the wake of the severe damage caused by Cyclone Gita, Vodafone has opened up free calling and texts to Tonga for all customers for the next 48 hours.

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