TODAY |

Huge waves crash onto Tuvalu as storm lashes small island nation

The small Pacific nation of Tuvalu has been inundated with giant waves and gale force winds causing widespread flooding.

The atoll was hit by strong persistent northwest winds which developed Thursday night through to yesterday which brought with it heavy rain and waves causing some damage to the island of Nukulaelae.

A video taken by local resident Tusi Tapuaiga yesterday shows the moment waves inundated properties near the beach while strong winds and heavy rain battered the small community.

Tropical Cyclone Tino downed trees on the island of Nukulaelae. Credit: Tusi Tapuaiga. Source: Supplied

“[It] hit us on Thursday night about 8pm and the wind was getting stronger and stronger from the north west of the island," Tusi told 1 NEWS.

“Waves [were] so big that it washed through part of the island which damaged our farm.”

Bill Singh from the MetService says damage to Nukulaelae would not have been the result of Tropical Cyclone Tino as the storm was tracking southwest of the atoll.

"The system deepened and was named Tropical Cyclone Tino at 4am Friday morning. At that time, it was located about 530 km to the southwest of Nukulaelae, and was moving southeast towards Fiji Islands."

Images taken in the aftermath show the storm’s power with debris swirling around in shallow floodwaters covering the island.

Tropical Cyclone Tino caused waves to flood the island of Nukulaelae. Credit: Tusi Tapuaiga. Source: Supplied

“[I’d] never seen this before…the wind was so strong,” Tusi says.

With no higher ground for residents to flee to, the only option for emergency shelter during the storm was the local school and a two storey house under construction.

No one was injured on the island of Nukulaelae but one home was badly damaged by the wind and waves. Other properties received minor damage and flooding.

Tropical Cyclone Tino caused widespread on the island of Nukulaelae. Credit: Tusi Tapuaiga. Source: Supplied

Residents were warned by the local meteorological service and media on Monday that the storm would hit the atoll later that week and many cut down trees and moved into the local school in preparation.

Tusi says the Red Cross has already supplied the island, with a population of less than 350, with canvas tarpaulins and blankets for the elderly residents.

Property damaged during Tropical Cyclone Tino. Credit: Tusi Tapuaiga. Source: Supplied

He says the government and meteorological service are in contact with the island by email and a disaster committee is on standby for any further emergencies.

The island’s water tanks didn’t sustain any damage during the storm and they still have power.

“The disaster committee have warned the people to stay home and move to a safer place,” says Tusi.

Tropical Cyclone Tino caused widespread damage on the island of Nukulaelae. Credit: Tusi Tapuaiga. Source: Supplied

“No boats are allowed to go out fishing.”

Tropical Cyclone Tino was upgraded to a category three storm today by the Fiji Meteorological Service.

The cyclone with winds of up to 140 kilometres per hour is due to make landfall at Udu Point, the northernmost part of Vanua Levu in the Fiji chain of islands, before midnight.


News tip or more information? Email Natalia Sutherland