Tropical Cyclone Harold lashes Vanuatu

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Damage in Luganville, the second largest city in Vanuatu.

Seventh-day Adventists around the South Pacific are being urged to pray for the people of Vanuatu, which has been pummelled by Tropical Cyclone Harold this morning (April 6).

The category 5 cyclone has brought torrential rain and 240km/h winds to the island nation. Vanuatu’s largest island, Santo, is bearing the brunt of the wild conditions, with reports of widespread damage.

ADRA has a field office on Santo, which is equipped with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) kits donated by the New Zealand Government and ready for distribution.

ADRA Vanuatu country director Richard Greenwell said ADRA has established an evacuation centre at Sarakata Adventist Church in Luganville. More than 20 ADRA trained youth are door-knocking and transporting vulnerable residents to the centre. Other evacuation shelters are likely to be set up in Adventist churches—a network of new churches rated to category 5 resilience were built after Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015.

The cyclone had earlier passed by Solomon Islands where it did not make landfall but caused a lot of flooding. The National Disaster Management Office is coordinating an initial damage assessment in partnership with non-government organisations including ADRA.

ADRA regional director Greg Young has called for prayer for the communities impacted and the volunteers who are helping those in need. “We are hearing reports of significant damage to houses and buildings, but we are praying that there will be no loss of life,” Mr Young said.

The cyclone has come at a particularly challenging time as Vanuatu is under a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s borders are closed and mass gatherings have been banned. However, the government has lifted social distancing restrictions to allow people to gather at the evacuation centres.