Tropical Cyclone Gita causes widespread damage in American Samoa

Tens of thousands of people in American Samoa spent the day surveying the damage left behind by Tropical Cyclone Gita.

The storm ripped through the area overnight, packing winds of up to 145 miles per hour.

No injuries or deaths were reported, but many are without power and the storm caused widespread damage to homes and infrastructure.

A Pearl City man says his mother, brother, and sister are in American Samoa, and their home was destroyed.

Talo Sataraka says the storm literally ripped the roof off his family’s home and tossed it clear across the yard.

He says thankfully, his family is okay, and he got a chance to Skype with them on Sunday.

Despite the destruction, Sataraka says his family and others in the village are in good spirits.

“People gather together and try to encourage each other through times like this,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to judge where they are emotionally at this point, because they tend to laugh at every disaster when it’s gone, but I think that’s the way they cope with a disaster at this point. But just hearing their voices, talking to me and saying they’re okay, that’s the best news ever.”

For now, all public schools are closed as crews continue to clean up down trees, debris, and utility lines.

President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for the U.S. territory, which makes federal aid available.

Gita isn’t done yet. Its latest casualty: the island nation of Tonga, which is home to about 105,000 people. The nation has declared a state of emergency.

Gita is still a very healthy cyclone with winds around the center at around 145 mph gusting to a whopping 175 mph.

The track has the system veering toward Fiji, but it appears that Gita may re-curve and head south to cooler waters.

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