Disaster officials in Vanuatu are urging communities, many of them in remote locations, to shelter as a tropical cyclone is forecast to intensify to a category five in the coming hours.
Cyclone Harold is currently a category four storm, bringing winds up to 175 kilometres per hour near its centre.
Vanuatu Red Cross disaster management co-ordinator Augustine Garae said there had already been reports of heavy rains and flooding in the country’s northern islands.
“Now safety is a priority, for people to find safe shelter before the cyclone makes landfall in their area,” Mr Garae said.
An update on TC Harold from Deputy High Commissioner Susan Ryle. We remind 🇦🇺 in 🇻🇺 to register with us and to keep up to date with the Vanuatu Meteorology Geo-hazards Department Facebook page and website. #BePrepared #StaySafe@Smartraveller @AusHumanitarian @dfat pic.twitter.com/2NRngxqQVl
— Australian High Commission in Vanuatu (@AusHCVanuatu) April 5, 2020
He warned Cyclone Harold could affect more islands than the category five Cyclone Pam in 2015, which killed around 15 people and is considered one of the worst natural disasters in Vanuatu’s history.
The storm is predicted to pass north of the capital Vila with winds of between 200kmh to 250kmh on Monday.
Damage has already been reported from the island of Santo, with people forced to flee their villages for higher ground.
Dozens of people remain missing in the Solomon Islands, to the north-west of Vanuatu, after being swept from a ferry in rough conditions whipped up by the cyclone.