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Tonga braces as powerful cyclone approaches

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Tonga was battening down Friday, January 10, as a powerful tropical cyclone bears down on the Pacific island nation, officials said.

Tropical Cyclone Ian, a category 4 system packing winds of up to 230 kilometers per hour (143 mph), was expected to make landfall early Saturday, January 11, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

"The cyclone may cause destructive winds, heavy rain, high swells and flash flooding in low-lying coastal areas," it said, adding that many people were boarding up windows and cutting back trees to minimize potential damage.

Red Cross emergency teams were on standby.

Tonga's National Emergency Operations Committee advised people to stock up on enough food and water to last for 3 days.

Tonga's 105,000 residents are used to dealing with cyclones, which are common in the Pacific during the November-April hurricane season.

Cyclone Ian has been lying offshore between Fiji and Tonga in recent days as a category 3 storm but has intensified as it approaches land. – Rappler.com