Apr 08, 2020 Last Updated 3:40 AM, Apr 8, 2020

The Lord Mayor of Luganville town in Vanuatu, Peter Patty says his biggest fear now is how they can rebuild as Cyclone Harold is already causing devastating damage in the northern town.

The Category 5 Tropical Cyclone couldn’t come at a worst time for Vanuatu, as it braces for the COVID-19 pandemic.

More people in the northern parts of Vanuatu and Santo in particular are moving to evacuation centres as TC Harold has increased in intensity,  with sustained winds close to its centre of 215km/h according to the Vanuatu Meteorology Service.

Speaking to Island Business this morning, Lord Mayor Patty says people living around the Pepsi area have lost their homes to flooding and two evacuation centres are already full, with plans to open more.

“My biggest fear now is how can we rebuild and revive businesses back to normal.

“This is one of the worst crises— to experience a cyclone in the middle of a pandemic that we have yet to recover from.”

While Vanuatu has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, precautionary measures have closed its ports and businesses.

Mayor Patty says all businesses in the town has been shut since Friday, after advice and warnings from the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD).

While the national State of Emergency conditions due to COVID-19 pandemic remain in place, the unpredictable intensity of TC Harold has forced the Government to remove the limit on social gatherings to five or less people,  as many people will be expected to assemble together in evacuation centers.

Abraham Nasak director of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) in Vanuatu announced yesterday that the rule on social gatherings has been removed and advised people to move to safer shelters, given that the rule of 5 in social gatherings has been lifted.

The Pacifica Weather & Tropical cyclone updates reported this morning that the eye of the Category 5 severe Tropical Cyclone Harold is just offshore to the West of Espiritu Santo.

Reports from a family at Nakere Village on South Santo revealed that the whole village has moved to an evacuation centre in a nearby school.

Kensly Micah from the NDMO on Santo says they all they can do is stay indoors and try to stay safe.

“We could not contact officers from different area councils around Sanma Province at this point of time.

“This is unpredicted and I must say there was less preparations as to how we can prepare for a tropical cyclone because much focus was on COVID-19,” Micah said.

The VMGD continues to release early warnings and red alert remains for Sanma Province, Penama, and Malampa.

Tuvalu looks set to declare a state of emergency due to the level of destruction caused by Tropical Cyclone Tino last week.

A full assessment of the extent of damage is still unclear, however reports emerged as TC Tino passed of waves innundating the island. It's reported up to 50 percent of the population may have been affected.

Earlier this week the Papua New Guinea government pledged K3 million (US$87,000) to help Tuvalu and Fiji recover from TC Tino. 

Prior to the arrival of Tino, The Red Cross in Tuvalu said it's volunteers had responded to more than 100 houses and have distributed tarps and blankets. They were still fielding requests, but were running low on supplies.

There is particular concern over food supplies and infrastructure in the wake of the cyclone.

Fiji and Tonga also suffered some damage as a result of TC Tino.

Vanuatu on watch for floods

Vanuatu’s northern and central regions have been warned to expect heavy rain and flash flooding as a severe weather system closes in from the north-west.

Isolated heavy rainfall with thunder and winds of up to 46 kilometres per hour can be expected over northern and central Vanuatu.

“People in these areas are advised to take precautions as flash flooding may take place near rivers and in low-lying areas,” an advisory from the Vanuatu Meteorology Service said.

The system is about 600km from the capital, Vila, but just north of Santo.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Meteorological Service has advised that Tropical Disturbance 04F (1000HPA) has been located around 13.6 South 166.6 East – about 1200km northwest of Nadi – around noon today (Tuesday).

The system has been described as slow-moving and chances of it developing into a cyclone over the next 24-48 hours are moderate.

But Fiji has been warned to expect heavy rain from tomorrow.


All eyes on weather system

A significant weather system has developed north-west of Vanuatu and is moving south-east towards New Caledonia and Fiji.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, placed the system near 12.05 South 164.0 East or 716 kilometres north-west of Port Vila, Vanuatu, early today.

Current models show the system has low to moderate chances of developing into a cyclone over the next 24-48 hours.

Neither Vanuatu nor Fiji have issued alerts at this stage but meteorological services in both countries continue to monitor the system which is moving at 28 kilometres per hour.

On its current track and at this speed, the system should begin to impact Vanuatu with heavy rain around noon today (Tuesday).


In Fiji, 361 evacuees are now taking shelter at evacuation centers around the country as Tropical Cyclone Sarai continues to move through the group.

15 evacuation centres country-wide have now been activated and a storm warning is now in force for Vatulele and Kadavu Island.

At 7am this morning Fiji time, the Category 2 cyclone was about 180km south-southwest of Nadi or about 150km west of Kadavu. TC Sarai is moving southeastward at approximately 14 km/hr.

On this projected track, it is expect pass very close to Kadavu later today then moving onto the Lau group tomorrow.

People living in Kadavu, Vatulele and Matuku have been warned to expect destructive storm force winds with average speeds of 100km/hr with momentary gusts of 140km/hr.  Heavy rain and squally thunderstorms, plud sea flooding should be expected during high tide.

National Disaster Management Office Director, Vasiti Soko says the District Officers and first responders are assisting people living in low lying areas to evacuate to high grounds.

In the western part of Viti Levu, people are advised to expect northwesterly winds with average speeds of 80km/hr with momentary gusts of 100km/hr. Winds and rain is expected to gradually ease from later today as TC Sarai moves further away from the Western Division. A flash flood warning remain in force for low lying areas, small streams and areas adjacent to major rivers in the Western Division and Northern Division.

For the Eastern Part of Viti Levu and Lomaiviti group, expect strong northeasterly winds this morning, which will shift to a southwesterly direction later today as TC Sarai moves closer to Kadavu. Rain will increase and a flash flood warning remains in force for low lying areas, small streams and areas adjacent to major rivers in the Central Division.

Meanwhile Fiji’s health ministry has temporarily suspended the national measles campaign due to the adverse weather effects of TC Sarai. Members of the public will be informed when the campaign will recommence.

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