Tonga braces as powerful Cyclone Gita bears down

A wave hits heavy machinery as emergency personnel work on a flooded road in Nelson, after the downgraded Tropical Cyclone Fehi brought heavy rain in New Zealand, in this still image taken from a February 1, 2018 social media video. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 February 2018

Tonga braces as powerful Cyclone Gita bears down

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY: The Pacific nation of Tonga braced for destructive winds and potential flash flooding from Tropical Cyclone Gita on Monday after the powerful storm pummelled Samoa over the weekend.
The Category 4 storm was moving south across the Pacific and was expected to hit Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, by 7 p.m. on Monday (0600 GMT), prompting the island nation to declare a state of emergency.
“Very destructive hurricane force winds are expected from this evening,” the Tongan Metservice said in a hurricane warning.
The Metservice said it expects Cyclone Gita to peak at a Category 4 event, but other regional meteorological agencies said the storm would reach Category 5, the most destructive wind-speed ranking.
Aid agencies warned of potential damage from heavy rain and winds, which the Metservice said could reach up to to 185 km per hour (115 mph).
Schools and workplaces in Tonga, which has a population of over just over 100,000, were closed ahead of the storm.
The Red Cross said residents were racing to identify strong buildings to be used for evacuations and to clean up debris such as loose wood or metal that could turn into dangerous missiles in powerful winds.
“That’s an incredibly strong cyclone ... people are getting prepared ... it really does save lives,” said Hanna Butler, Red Cross Pacific spokeswoman based in Fiji.
The Metservice also warned of huge coastal swells and flooding of low-lying areas.
Cyclone Gita pummelled Samoa and American Samoa, about 900 km (560 miles) to the northeast, over the weekend, flooding the Samoan capital, Apia. About 300 people had evacuated but were now returning to their homes, Butler said. Many people remained without clean, running water.
US President Donald Trump declared emergency status for American Samoa, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.


Protests in New Delhi against India’s citizenship law ahead of Trump visit

Updated 23 February 2020

Protests in New Delhi against India’s citizenship law ahead of Trump visit

  • Hundreds of people supporting the new law clashed with those opposing it
  • The protest comes just a day before US President Donald Trump begins a two-day visit to India

NEW DELHI: Police used tear gas to disperse large crowds in India’s capital of New Delhi on Sunday in the latest eruption of violence at protests over a new citizenship law, police officials said.
Hundreds of people supporting the new law clashed with those opposing it, with the two groups pelting each other with stones in the Maujpur area in the northeastern part of the city, according to television footage.
“There must be some miscreants who want to spoil the peace in the area. We will identify them and take action against them,” Alok Kumar, a senior Delhi police official, told reporters about the protest.
“The situation is under control now,” he added.
The protest comes just a day before US President Donald Trump begins a two-day visit to India, where he is expected to raise the issue of religious freedom in the country with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, which eases the path for non-Muslims from neighboring Muslim-majority nations to gain citizenship, has triggered weeks of sometimes violent protests against Modi’s government.
The Indian law is seen by opponents as discriminating against Muslims and has deepened concerns that Modi’s administration is undermining India’s secular traditions.
Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party denies any bias against the country’s 180 million Muslims.
On Sunday, a separate protest also erupted in the northern Indian city of Aligarh, where protesters threw stones at the police, state administration official Chandra Bhushan Singh said.
The Internet in the area had been suspended until midnight, he added.