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Tonga seeks aid after cyclone rips through islands

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Officials in the tiny South Pacific kingdom of Tonga are calling for international aid after a tropical cyclone tore through its northern islands.

Cyclone Waka hit Monday and Tuesday with more than 105 mph winds before slipping away to open ocean.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported in the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga, which sits just east of the international date line. But Tonga's National Disaster Committee said Thursday that help was needed as food crops were destroyed and many buildings and houses wrecked. Yachts were sunk and a wharf at Neiafu in the Vava'u Group was ripped apart.

"Food-bearing trees like coconuts and breadfruit have been destroyed," Deputy director Maliu Pakai said from the capital of Nuku'alofa, more than 280 miles to the south of the worst-hit areas. "As far as buildings are concerned, 60 to 70 percent have been destroyed or damaged."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 46,000 church members in the Tongan Islands.

The church has already sent emergency relief supplies from Vava'u to Nuku'alofa and is also determining what future relief is needed.

There are no reports of any missionaries or church members being injured from the storm. However, the homes of some church members have been damaged. No church buildings have been affected, though.

Power and water supplies on the main Vava'u island had been cut and crops wiped out, Pakai said. Some 20,000 people live around Neiafu.

New Zealand said it would soon send relief supplies. "Some areas are totally devoid of vegetation, especially on exposed hills," New Zealand High Commissioner Warwick Hawker said Thursday after a reconnaissance flight.