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Deadly Lusi claims 11 lives in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is still reeling from monster cyclone Lusi that took at least eleven lives and caused millions of dollars in damage to gardens and properties early March. Yet in this rare instance, the cyclonic winds were not the central villain in the plot. Cyclone Lusi was first noticed as a ‘tropical disturbance’ near Vanuatu’s largest island of Espiritu Santo on 7 March and the system moved north-northeast, becoming a tropical depression on 9 March. Late on the same day, it had developed into a category one tropical cyclone called Lusi.

Prior to that announcement, Vanuatu had been blessed with a cyclone free summer /wet season. After going throughout the entire 2012/2013 season narrowly missing a couple but officially being without any sign of that deadly circular pattern on our weather maps, residents were beginning to feel confident that 2013/2014 would follow suit.

How wrong we all were. Ahead of Lusi being born, the Vanuatu Meteorology and GeoHazards Department issued tropical cyclone warnings to four of the six provinces – Torba, Sanma, Penama and Malampa. For those of us living in Efate, the island that is home to the nation’s capital of Port Vila, Cyclone Lusi was not a major event. Winds gusts around 80-90kmh and lots of rain marked this cyclone, with little damage evident, although some flooding.

But sadly, other islands did not fare so well. And it was the large volume of rain that accompanied Lusi that has marked her as the most deadly in Vanuatu’s recent history. In fact it was the most deadly in Vanuatu since Cyclone Uma all but destroyed Port Vila in February 1987 with its category four intensity claiming 50 lives throughout Vanuatu and causing US$150 million in damage.

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