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'Greatest ever' downpour floods Tonga

NUKU'ALOFA (AFP) - A freak storm -- that dumped more than a month's average rainfall in less than 24 hours -- has swamped the Pacific island nation of Tonga, forcing evacuations, officials said Saturday.

Buildings, including the Australian High Commission, and houses in the main city of Nuku'alofa were flooded after roads turned into rivers during the storm, officials said.

"This is the greatest rainfall we have ever had in the kingdom," duty forecaster 'Ofa Taumoepeau said.

Climatologists called it "an extreme event" with up to 289.2 millimetres (11.38 inches) of rain falling on parts of the main island of Tongatapu in the 24 hours to 10:00am Saturday.

Most of the rain fell in a seven-hour period on Friday evening causing flash-flooding across the island and forcing animals to swim for their lives.

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