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Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji counting the cost of TC Harold

Clean up efforts are already underway in Vanuatu and Fiji, parts of which were hit by Cyclone Harold this week.

In Vanuatu the first reports have emerged of the category-five storm’s destruction in Vanuatu.

Communication lines have been restored to the hardest-hit regions of Vanuatu on Wednesday, two days after Cyclone Harold made landfall.

The islands of Espiritu Santo, Malo and Pentecost were blasted by torrential rain and winds above 235km/h in the storm, which travelled directly over Luganville, the country’s second biggest settlement.

Amid the devastation, there are no reports of loss of life.

Locals and relief agencies will now begin a damage assessment and provision of immediate needs.

Save The Children country director Luke Ebbs, based in Port Vila, said the “scale of damage is immense”.

“Water tanks knocked over, boats blown out of the water, trees stripped of their leaves and lots of roofs blown off,” he said.

“Right now there are very pressing needs for temporary shelter, food, water and basic hygiene items like soap, buckets and water containers.

“Many families we spoke to have lost almost everything, and they urgently need humanitarian assistance.”

New Zealand has sent a surveillance plane to Vanuatu to help with this task and pledged an initial NZ$500,000 (US$300,000) towards relief.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said Harold had “caused major damage to homes, public buildings, infrastructure, telecommunications networks and crops”.

The storm formed near the Solomon Islands, where 27 people were reportedly thrown overboard and killed when a packed ferry headed off into dicey waters.

Writing on the DevPolicy blog today, Dr Transform Aquora says: “The ship was transporting Honiara residents seeking refuge from COVID-19 (at the advice of government) in the village at West Are Are, one of the Districts in Malaita Province. The casualties include the wife, three sons, and brother of a Deputy Principal of one of Solomon Islands’ national secondary schools. This is deeply shocking and sad for the country. Those who lost their life were innocent Solomon Islanders simply escaping the likely breakout of COVID-19 in Honiara.”

In Fiji, the director of the National Management Office (NDMO), Vasiti Soko, says “We’ve seen reports of injuries.

“As to the number, as well as the intensity, of the injuries, that’s yet to be ascertained.”

There were no immediate reports of deaths, but about 10 houses in Suva were reported destroyed, Soko added.

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