'By far the worst' - 1 NEWS' Barbara Dreaver took shelter by bed during cyclone

1 NEWS Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver has seen more than her share of cyclones while reporting - but she says enduring Cyclone Gita in Tonga was "by far the worst" she has been through.

The category-4 storm hit Tonga overnight on Monday, and the cleanup continues while Gita moves out to sea to the west.

Pacific correspondent Ms Dreaver was sheltering on the floor during Cyclone Gita before it got flooded. Source: 1 NEWS

Ms Dreaver said she took shelter beside her bed in Nuku'alofa while the storm hit, until her room was flooded.

She also said it was "a miracle" no one had been killed in the storm, attributing that mostly to people taking more precautions after Cyclone Winston in 2016.

"Places that I have seen - they are completely decimated," she said.

Emergency services told her they were surprised no one had been killed in the storm, considering the destruction.

The storm also pounded Fiji's southernmost islands. Source: 1 NEWS


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Bill English would have had a 'competitive' chance to beat Jacinda Ardern in 2020

Bill English has revealed his decision to vacate the National leadership had nothing to do with his own political relevancy going forward, saying he would have had a "competitive" chance to beat Jacinda Ardern in 2020.

"We'd certainly be aiming to win [in the 2020 general election]," Mr English said from the Beehive in Wellington this morning.

"Staying on would mean being totally committed to that, and I have no doubt that if I was totally committed to it I'd have the support of the caucus.

"So murmurings and speculation didn't have any influence on my decision."   

He decided to leave during a relaxing period over Christmas with his family, without the impending worries of cabinet he had faced for the past nine years.

Mr English said he reasons for not stepping down straight after the election was concerns over the unfamiliar transition to the opposition role for his party.

"As a leader I wanted to make sure, what was a big change for my team of MPs and staff, that we got on with the job, make sure that we got organised as an opposition," Mr English said.

"Almost one in two New Zealanders had voted for us so we needed to reflect their concerns about the government.

"Then over the summer had a bit of time to thing about it, and then once you've decided to go I think it's always actually better to go. Otherwise it's bad for the group of people you're meant to be leading."

Mr English nevertheless admitted he did waver "backwards and forwards a bit" on the decision.

"There's always a reason to stay," he said.

"Politics, there's all this energy in it. Sometimes it's a bit negative but generally it really keeps you going, keeps you interested, there's a lot happening, there's a lot of momentum.

"For political reasons it'd be good to stick around, have a crack at this government because I think they're going to run into some real problems over the next couple of years.

"But in the end, as i said yesterday, it was a personal decision, not a political one, and I'm ready to go, looking forward to a new start with my family for whom politics have been their whole lives and we want to change that."

Mr English will leave the National leadership, and Parliament entirely on February 27.

He has not revealed who he will be voting for as next National leader.

The outgoing National leader spoke to 1 NEWS' Jack Tame about the tough decision process on leaving politics. Source: 1 NEWS

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Oxfam still waiting to hear from Fiji's Lau islands as Gita moves west

Oxfam says it is waiting for radio contact from Fiji's Ono-i-Vau and Vatoa islands after Cyclone Gita knocked out communications yesterday in order to determine what assistance is needed, if any.

Gita largely missed Fiji, tracking to the west instead, but some assistance may still be required, Oxfam's Jane Foster said.

"At this stage we're waiting for feedback from the local government authorities who had issued the evacuation orders," Ms Foster told TVNZ1's Breakfast.

Joanna Bourke boarded up her house and endured the storm by herself. Source: Seven Sharp

"The population of those southern islands would have taken shelter."

Ms Foster said lessons had been learned in the islands from the destructive Cyclone Winston in 2016, which killed dozens of people, and more people had heeded official warnings this time around

"Many thousands of people actually used the evacuation centres," she said.

Many residents in the Pacific nation documented the extreme weather event. Source: 1 NEWS

Meanwhile, people in Tonga are assessing damage and beginning to clean up after Gita hit there overnight Monday.

Jane Foster said Oxfam is still waiting for contact to be re-established with two of Fiji's southern Lau islands, after the edge of Gita brushed them yesterday. Source: Breakfast


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