Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has issued a red alert for the southern Tafea province, urging residents to stay indoors as Cyclone Ula passes the country’s south.
The category-four storm is tracking near the southern islands after hitting Fiji and Tonga last week.
Peter Korissa from the NDMO said people in the southern islands of Aneityum and Futuna were experiencing strong winds.
At 6:00pm Sunday (local time), the cyclone was 95 kilometres from Aneityum.
Ellen Luke from the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre in Port Vila said it was moving south-west, away from Vanuatu.
“But people [in the southern islands] are still experiencing heavy rainfall and strong gale force winds,” she said, adding that seas would also be rough as the cyclone passes.
She said the storm was expected to weaken to category-three strength later on Monday.
The meteorological service in Vanuatu also predicted heavy rain and possible flooding in low-lying areas, places close to river banks and along the coast in Tafea province.
Last March Vanuatu was hit by Cyclone Pam, which left tens of thousands of people homeless and wiped out food crops.
Care International Vanuatu program director Inga Mepham said Cyclone Ula had the potential to cause more misery.
Less than a year ago, Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu’s south islands, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.
“The government’s been very on-the-ball and they have been updating every three hours and that’s been going out to people in all the areas,” she said.
“It doesn’t mean people aren’t traumatised and aren’t concerned and remember what it [Cyclone Pam] was like.
“I think, obviously, in some places there will be panic and there will also be a lot of people who are prepared and have taken precautions.”
Authorities in New Zealand expect heavy rain in the north from Monday, as the cyclone curves south-east.