Big clean-up underway after Cyclone Harold

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Remains of Tiviale Adventist Church.

The clean-up and recovery effort is continuing for South Pacific communities left devastated by Tropical Cyclone Harold.

The category-five cyclone cut a path of destruction through Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga earlier this month, leaving thousands of people homeless, cutting power and water supplies, and flooding villages. Worst affected was Vanuatu, where the cyclone caused extensive damage to the northern part of the country after making landfall on April 6.

“The devastation is so big, thousands of people lost their entire gardens, homes and there are over 1000 schools that have been destroyed,” said Vanuatu Mission president Pastor Nos Terry Mailalong.

Devastation in Vanuatu. (Credit: Jean Pierre Niptik)

Adventists were among the many left homeless. “We lost churches, schools and hundreds of church members lost their homes,” Pastor Mailalong said. “Aore Adventist Academy, which is the major church high school in the country, is almost completely destroyed.”

All of Aore’s seven staff houses were also smashed. The Adventist primary school at Sarakata lost its roof and an ADRA staff house was flattened.

Cyclone Harold formed as a tropical low between Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands on April 1. It struck the Solomons as a category-two system, destroying houses, buildings and food crops. At the height of the storm, 27 people were reportedly swept off a ferry travelling from Honiara city to Malaita province on April 3. No Adventists are believed to have been among the casualties.

Damage to the library at Aore Adventist Academy.

In north-east Guadalcanal, Tiviale Adventist Church was destroyed and Tenakoga Adventist College had a roof blown off and dining hall damaged. Seven Adventist families in Guadalcanal province lost their homes and 23 kitchen outbuildings in Adventist communities were destroyed.

In Fiji, the cyclone caused widespread flooding and damage to homes, especially within the communities of Lau and Kadavu. It then moved to Tonga, where buildings and roads were damaged, and a number of homes lost their roofs, including a staff house at Beulah Adventist College and a pastor’s house on Eua Island.

Aore Adventist Academy bore the brunt of the damage. (Credit: Jean Pierre Niptik)

ADRA is working with local authorities in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Fiji and with the Tongan Mission office to assist those affected. Food and shelter are the main needs.

Solomon Islands ADRA emergency response coordinator Raynick Ray said communities are facing the challenge of their root crops rotting because of the flooded gardens, while there are also health concerns.

“The communities are experiencing an increased rate of mosquito bites and are requesting quick delivery of bed nets and other relevant supplies should there be an outbreak of malaria, dengue, or other disease and sickness,” Mr Ray said.

ADRA workers in Vanuatu are supporting those in need. (Credit: Jean Pierre Niptik)

The relief effort has been made particularly challenging due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, with supply routes being cut and difficulties around managing safe social distancing while people are gathered at evacuation centres.

Pastor Mailalong said Vanuatu had now been hit by three major disasters. “There is the impact of the threat of COVID-19—plenty of working-class citizens are losing their jobs,” he said.

“In the Tafea province in the southern part of the country, ash is falling from the volcanoes and affecting the livelihoods of the people, destroying food crops and contaminating the water source. And then of course Cyclone Harold devastated the northern part of the country. Only the Lord will see Hispeople through these difficult times.”