Cyclone Harold Set to Hit Vanuatu as Category Five Storm

  • Cyclone Harold Set to Hit Vanuatu as Category Five Storm

Cyclone Harold Set to Hit Vanuatu as Category Five Storm

The country has been under a state of emergency since late march due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Solomon Islands police said on Sunday (April 5) they had retrieved five bodies in their search for 27 people who were swept off a ferry during a tropical cyclone that is now threatening the nearby South Pacific nation of Vanuatu as a category four storm.

Augustine Garae, the Disaster Management Coordinator for the Vanuatu Red Cross Society told Pacific Beat that "the focus was more on COVID-19 and now we have moved our focus to preparedness for the cyclone".

Powerful winds with speeds up to 215 kilometres an hour at the centre of Cyclone Harold are now hitting remote islands and bringing strong rains.

The weather forecaster said with the current track, TC Harold is expected to track to the southwest of the Fiji group this Wednesday or Thursday.

Vanuatu, and the province of Sanma in particular, was hit hard in 2015 by the Category 5 Cyclone Pam that pummelled the capital Port Vila and other islands. Vanuatu is one of the few countries in the world that does not have any confirmed cases of the virus, but there are fears that were an outbreak to occur its health system would struggle to cope.

"There have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Vanuatu, but a significant disaster at this time could present serious logistical challenges to delivering life-saving aid", Oxfam's Vanuatu director Elizabeth Faerua said.

Cyclone Harold is likely to batter Vanuatu tonight and tomorrow with winds of up to 200km/h - and Save The Children says it is ready to offer assistance.

It flattened Port Vila, killed 11 people and left a swathe of destruction that the World Bank estimated wiped out nearly two-thirds of Vanuatu's economic capacity.

De Gaillande said Vanuatu's government could face a balancing act between helping cyclone-devastated communities and potentially importing the virus by allowing in worldwide aid.

Solomons police said late Sunday that the bodies of five passengers from the MV Taimareho had been recovered and the search would resume the next day. The boat was chartered as part of the country's response to coronavirus as a way of transporting people back to their home island of Malaita.