Tonga begins cleanup while Fiji prepares for Cyclone Gita

This image made from a video, shows parliament house damaged by Cyclone Gita in Nuku'alofa, Tonga on Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Tonga begins cleanup while Fiji prepares for Cyclone Gita

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Tonga began cleaning up Tuesday after a cyclone hit overnight, while some people in the nearby Pacific nation of Fiji began preparing for the storm to hit them.
Cyclone Gita destroyed homes and churches in Tonga and caused widespread power outages after it tore through the island nation just south of the capital, Nuku’alofa. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or deaths.
The cyclone was packing winds of over 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour) when it made landfall. The nation has declared a state of emergency.
The cyclone was continuing to intensify and was predicted to hit some southern Fiji islands Tuesday night. Experts predict the cyclone will miss Fiji’s major population centers, including the capital, Suva.
About 2,500 people living on two of Fiji’s islands were at risk, the nation’s National Disaster Management Office told Radio New Zealand. Director Anare Leweniqila said emergency supplies of food and water were being gathered and urged elderly and disabled people to begin moving into evacuation centers.
The storm has strengthened since hitting Samoa and American Samoa last week, where it caused damage to buildings, widespread power outages and flooding.
President Donald Trump on Sunday declared an emergency in American Samoa, a US territory. The declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide equipment and resources to help the 50,000 residents recover.
Chris Brandolino, a scientist at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said flooding and coastal inundation would likely cause as many problems in Tonga as the damage from the winds.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her government was on standby and ready to help Tonga, which is home to about 105,000 people.
On Monday before the storm hit, publisher Pesi Fonua said people were busy nailing boards and roofing iron to their homes to try to limit the damage from coconuts, trees and other debris.


Syria police deploy in south Damascus after Daesh defeat

Updated 6 min 25 sec ago
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Syria police deploy in south Damascus after Daesh defeat

DAMASCUS: Syrian police deployed across devastated districts in southern Damascus on Tuesday, according to state media, a day after the government captured the area from the Daesh group.
The government on Monday seized the Yarmuk Palestinian camp and adjacent neighborhoods of Tadamun and Hajjar Al-Aswad, putting Damascus fully under its control for the first time since 2012.
On Tuesday, police units entered Yarmuk and Hajjar Al-Aswad and planted the two-star Syrian flag there, state television reported.
It broadcast images of security forces atop a pockmarked multi-story building in Yarmuk where they had hung the national flag.
They had also plastered pictures of President Bashar Assad and his predecessor and father Hafez.
Other police officers gathered in the ravaged streets below and fired in the air in celebration.
“The police are present round-the-clock,” said one officer interviewed on the state broadcaster.
“Special units are deployed across the camp to help any civilians and protect their belongings,” he said.
It also showed footage from Hajjar Al-Aswad of a convoy of police cars and motorcycles making its way through dusty streets lined with crumbling buildings.
There were no civilians in sight.
Yarmuk, Hajjar Al-Aswad and the nearby district of Tadamun all lie in a southern pocket of Damascus that had escaped regime control for several years.
The government began losing its grip on parts of the capital in 2012, just one year after the conflict in Syria erupted.
But it has made a comeback this year, with Assad using a mix of military pressure and evacuation deals to flush rebels and militants out of Damascus and its outskirts.
His troops and allied Palestinian fighters turned their sights on Yarmuk and the other Daesh-held parts of the capital last month.
Daesh overran Yarmuk in 2015, but the massive Palestinian camp had already been ravaged by years of rebel infighting and government attacks.
Syria’s army announced it had seized Yarmuk from Daesh on Monday.
Several sources, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a military source close to Damascus, said the capture came after a negotiated withdrawal of Daesh fighters. The government has denied such a deal.