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09 Apr 2020 | 11:44 AM UTC

Vanuatu: Fatalities and destruction in Sanma province following passage of Tropical Cyclone Harold April 8 /update 5

The passage of Tropical Cyclone Harold brings reports of fatalities and destruction on Aore, Malo, and Espiritu Santo islands in Sanma province on April 8

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VUT

Event

According to international media outlets, at least two people were killed and an unconfirmed number of people were injured on the Aore, Malo, and Espiritu Santo islands in Sanma province, after Tropical Cyclone Harold made landfall on Monday, April 6.

Initial reports indicated that there was extensive destruction and damage to houses, public buildings, infrastructure, crops, and telecommunication networks, including in the country's second largest city Luganville (Espiritu Santo). Media reports on Wednesday, April 8, stated that communication lines and power in the hardest hit regions of the country had been mostly restored. However, the MP of Luganville also stated that more than one thousand people have been displaced to evacuation centers and there are shortages of aid, water, and shelter.

The government reportedly eased COVID-19 lockdown restrictions after Harold's passing to allow people to travel domestically and gather in evacuation centers. Also, a military plane from New Zealand stocked with aid supplies and a helicopter has been scheduled to arrive to assist with relief and recovery operations. The National Disaster Management Office has stated that all foreign assistance will be strictly controlled amid the COVID-19 outbreak to continue its attempt to curb the spread of the disease.

Continued associated flooding, transportation and business disruptions are anticipated, as well as disruptions to power and communication services, across the country in the coming days.

Context

Tropical Cylone Harold made landfall on Santo Island on Monday, April 6, at approximately 13:00 (local time), causing flooding and serious infrastructural damage to buildings particularly in Sanma province. Communication was cut off in the islands of Santo and Malekula.

At least five people were drowned, while 25 people remain missing as of April 9, after a ferry was swept off near the Solomon Islands as a result of heavy seas caused by the approaching Cyclone Harold.

Advice

Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities, anticipate adverse weather and power and transportation disruptions, and remember that running water can be dangerous - 15 cm (6 in) is enough to knock over an adult - and never drive through flooded streets; floodwater may also contain wastewater and chemical products.