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Tropical Cyclone Harold (Vanuatu and Fiji) Flash Update No. 1 - As of 8 April 2020, 22:00 local time (Suva)

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Situation Overview

Tropical Cyclone Harold made landfall as a Category 5 cyclone in Vanuatu on 6 April with sustained winds of more than 200 km/h. The northern provinces of Sanma, Malampa and Penama were most affected. Due to its path across the centre of Vanuatu, TC Harold has directly impacted on a large number of populated islands, including Ambrym, Ambae, Pentecost, Malampa, Maewo, Malo, Paama and the large island of Santo with the country’s second largest city Luganville.

Based on first aerial surveillance assessments, Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office estimates that up to 160,000 people may have been affected by the cyclone. Storm force winds affected Sanma, Penama and Malampa provinces with heavy rainfalls and flash flooding over low lying areas and areas close to riverbanks. There is also substantial coastal flooding in these provinces, as well as in Torba. Power outages throughout affected areas have made it difficult to immediately quantify the damage. Mobile phone netwroks were disrupted on most of the island, but as of today, selected communication facilities are working in Santo. There is substantial damage to houses and structures throughout Santo but also particularly in Luganville. Many agricultural areas and crops have been destroyed.

TC Harold then headed to Fiji where it hit Viti Levu and the islands to the east as a Category 4 cyclone in the night of 7-8 April. The cyclone has today caused significant power outages, blocked roads due to fallen trees, and widespread flooding. Damage assessments are currently being conducted by the Fiji National Disaster Management Office and findings will be shared in the coming days. A cyclone warning remains in force for parts of Fiji as of the evening of 8 April.

Government Response and Support by Humanitarian Partners

In Vanuatu, the provinces of Sanma (53,344 people), Penama (32,055 people), and Malampa (40,917 people) have been categorized as Priority 1 for assistance. The provinces of Torba (10,102 people) and Shepherds Group (23,056 people) have been categorized as Priority 2.

The overall coordination of the response in Vanuatu lies with the National Disaster Committee under the leadership of the Director General of the Ministry responsible for Meteorology, Geological Hazards and Climate Change. The Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office is implementing the response at the national level with clusters already activated for the COVID-19 response.

Further assessments in Vanuatu as well as deployments on the ground are currently being planned for the coming days. To facilitate movement of humanitarian personnel as well as relief items, the Government of Vanuatu has eased in-country travel restrictions and has also lifted all previous restrictions on domestic air and sea operations. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) released more than 50,000 Swiss francs (more than $US 51,500) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support the work of the Vanuatu Red Cross.

In Fiji, the National Emergency Operations Centre as well as Divisional Emergency Operation Centres have been activated by the National Disaster Management Office. A total of 69 evacuation centers in four divisions have been set up to accommodated 1,778 evacuees.

The Pacific Humanitarian Team and humanitarian partners are working closely with authorities in Vanuatu and Fiji and stand ready to organize and participate in initial assessments, and to support Government efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs of affected people.

For more information, contact: Anne Colquhoun, Head of Office, OCHA Office for the Pacific colquhoun2@un.org

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.