Thousands of people in Pacific communities have been left homeless by Tropical Cyclone Harold, which reached Tonga this morning (April 9).
Early reports out of Tonga include damage at Beulah Adventist College where the roof of a staff house has been torn off. The cyclone’s gale-force winds and heavy rain have already cut a destructive path through Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji this week.
In Vanuatu, the category-five cyclone caused significant damage to houses, buildings and infrastructure. Hardest hit was the island of Santo and its adjacent islands including Aore, which is believed to have been at the centre of the storm. At Aore Adventist Academy, classrooms have been extensively damaged and all seven staff houses were smashed. Fortunately, all teaching staff and workers are safe.
The roof of the Adventist primary school at Sarakata was also blown off and an ADRA staff house was destroyed. Prior to the cyclone’s arrival, ADRA Vanuatu opened an evacuation centre at Sarakata Adventist church and registered 200 evacuees.
According to an ADRA situation report, the coastline of Santo has been severely affected with most houses destroyed. “Over 1000 people on Santo alone are without houses,” the report states. “Further assessments could mean up to 160,000 people affected across four islands.”
ADRA is actively coordinating the response effort with the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office and government agencies along with churches and other non-government agencies.
Prior to reaching Vanuatu, the then category-two cyclone caused widespread damage to houses, buildings, roads and gardens across four provinces in Solomon Islands. Tenakoga Adventist College, in north-east Guadalcanal, had roofs blown off and suffered damaged to the front section of its dining hall. Sadly, 27 people are presumed missing at sea after being washed off MV Taemareho due to high swells caused by the cyclone. The vessel was travelling from Honiara city to Malaita province when the incident happened in the early hours of April 3.
In Fiji, the cyclone has left “a path of destruction in its wake”, according to a Twitter post by Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Buildings have been flattened and communities flooded.
“Between Tropical Cyclone Harold and the global COVID-19 pandemic our economy and our people have been dealt two body blows to start the year,” the Prime Minister said.