(Updated) Vanuatu – Tropical Cyclone Harold Leaves Trail of Destruction

Update, 08 April 2020:

Tropical Cyclone Harold has also caused severe damage in Fiji. Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said buildings have been flattened and communities flooded. Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) said on 08 April that many parts of Ba Town were flooded and the Nasivi River in Tavua had broken its banks. A total of 69 evacuation centres were active in the country with 1778 evacuees, many of which are from Taiperia and Navutu.

Original report, 07 April 2020:

Tropical Cyclone Harold made landfall in Santo and Malo islands in Vanuatu’s northern Sanma Province on 06 April as a Category 5 cyclone with maximum sustained winds up to 215 km/h.

Tropical Cyclone Harold 03 April. Credit: NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System EOSDIS

Solomon Islands

The cyclone had already left a trail of damage when it passed the Solomon Islands a few days earlier as a Category 2 storm with winds of up to 160kmh. At least 7 people died and 21 are still missing after being swept from a ferry caught in rough seas.


On 06 April Cyclone Harold hit the north and west of Vanuatu, flattening properties in the second-largest city of Luganville. Initial estimates suggest up to 70% of the buildings have been damaged in Luganville, which has been cut off from the wider Santo area by flooding, landslides and debris. The storm also affected parts of Penama and Malampa Provinces. Phone communication and power is down in many affected areas.

Oxfam and its partners are preparing a response. Oxfam in Vanuatu Country Director Elizabeth Faerua said: “We are collaborating with our local partners and working with the National Disaster Management Office, Provincial Governments and Area Councils to respond accordingly.”

According to Oxfam, the three affected provinces of Sanma, Penama and Malampa have a population of 127,000 people, many of whom are considered high risk as their very livelihoods depend on their food and vegetable gardens.

“Oxfam and its local partners are working with the National Disaster Management Office and the Provincial Governments and Area Councils to prepare for Cyclone Harold. Teams are on standby as the country braces for the impact of what is believed to be one of the worse storms since Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015 devastated the country.” Faerua said.

Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) said in a statement of 07 April that Cyclone Harold had left Vanuatu waters and assessment work had begun in affected northern provinces.

NDMO said: “Communications have been cut in many areas, but assessments are currently being made about safety and operational status of local airstrips, airports, and ports.

“As soon as flights can take off, assessment teams will be sent to affected islands. Aerial assessments will be undertaken of damaged areas. A limited amount of relief items will be carried on each flight.

“Assessment is the immediate priority. From that the NDMO will be able to work towards distributing relief supplies currently in store in Vanuatu for immediate distribution.”


The cyclone, still a category five, is slowly moving away from the country towards Fiji, where some flooding and landslides have already been reported. The Fiji Government said: “Tropical Cyclone Harold expected to enter Fijian waters from tonight (07 April). It will pass just to the south of Kadavu before moving on towards South Lau, bringing strong winds and heavy rains in the Yasawa and Mamanuca groups, Viti Levu, Kadavu, the Lomaiviti Group and the Southern Lau Group.”

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