A state of emergency has officially been declared in Tonga as the potentially-destructive Cyclone Gita bears down on it.
For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm.
Source: 1 NEWS
Cyclone Gita is currently a Category 4 but is expected to be a Category 5 when it hits Tonga about 7pm tonight.
Ofa Fa'anunu from the Tonga Meteorological service says Gita will be the strongest cyclone on record to hit the Kingdom.
He is warning the public to go to evacuation centres as soon as possible.
Acting Prime Minister Semisi Sika today signed the state of emergency declaration due to "the destructive force winds and sea rises caused by Tropical Cyclone Gita".
"It is necessary for emergency powers to be exercised in order to prevent or minimise the loss of human life, illness or injury, property loss or damage, and damage to the environment," the declaration read.
The state of emergency will remain in effect for a month, unless terminated earlier by the Prime Minister.
The Tongan Community in New Zealand is watching on with anxiety.
"I think the worry is there, and everybody is braced to find out what the cyclone will do," Tongan Advisory Council chair Melino Maka told 1 NEWS.
"If it hits Tongatapu as a Category 5 there will be a lot of damage.
"The last time there was a cyclone, it wasn’t a Category 5 and it did a lot of damage to the shoreline," Mr Maka said.
"It's quite frightening, we just have to wait and see how the cyclone tracks."
Schools and Govt departments are closed today - shops are open and many residents are stocking up on emergency supplies and equipment.
Tonga's Meteorological Service has issues a Hurricane Warning for Tongatapu and 'Eua, as well as damaging swell, heavy rain and flash flooding warnings.
Category-5 storms are the top of the scale, with winds of more than 252km/h.
Cyclone Winston, a Category-5 tropical cyclone which formed in February of 2016, killed 44 people in Fiji, injured 126 more and destroyed or damaged 40,000 homes.
Forecasts are currently about half and half on whether the remnant of the storm will eventually make landfall in New Zealand next week.