Cyclone Zoe has now been downgraded to a Category 2 Cyclone. It has completed the recurvature process and is now heading away from Vanuatu. The recurvature over the last day has been tight and the storm has recurved enough to pose a slight problem to Western and Southern Fiji and probably Tonga. However, it is weakening quickly. By the time it affects Fiji and Tonga, it will have lost much of its former punch.
Vanuatu luckily escaped the full brunt of the storm due to the timing and steepness of recurvature. The sparsely populated Banks Islands have reported heavy flooding and crop destruction, but no serious injuries or deaths. Damage to crops and bush-material housing is also being reported from the Torres Islands. Otherwise, damage from other Northern islands seems light.
The Solomons have not fared so well. It is likely that all crops and all but the most secure housing would have been destroyed in Akuta and Tikopia. Water sources may also have been compromised. Both islands were both near the axis of recurvature so the storm pounded them with Category 5 waves and winds for almost 2 straight days. Abraham Baenesia head of SIDT, AFAP's Solomon partner, and also on the Solomons Emergency Committee, has been working with other officials to get a patrol trip sent tomorrow (Tuesday) to go to the Santa Cruz Group and Anuta and Tikopia. It is known that historically, islanders on Tikopia survived major cyclones by hiding in large cave systems on the island. Hopefully this happened again, so that there would not be too many injuries. However, all radio communications have been lost with these islands. Therefore the patrol boat will likely be the first opportunity of communication. AFAP and SIDT were able to get warnings to VDWs on both islands 24 hours before the storm hit. The warnings clearly stated that a "very powerful cyclone" was about to hit them and that the VDWs were to help islanders make all preparations. Therefore, we feel secure at least that they had some warning and enough time to act.
SIBC has reported that the Australian Government is funding the patrol boat, so a big thanks to them. SIDT will have workers and assessors on board the patrol boat to assess the situation and relay information back to Honiara. Food and water will also be taken. AFAP supports the VDW system generally, and will look at funding or material support if these assessment require.
The other main islands in the Santa Cruz Group, Utupea, Vanikoro and Nendo were reporting some flooding and destruction of crops and insecure bush material houses, but no injuries or fatalities. All of these islands are in radio contact, so basic assessments can be made and communicated easily.
The Fiji Meterological Centre has issued the following:
A STRONG WIND WARNING REMAINS IN FORCE FOR WESTERN VITI LEVU, YASAWA AND MAMANUCA GROUPS, KADAVU, VATULELE AND NEARBY SMALLER ISLANDS.
Some flooding and wind damage is possible, but will likely be slight overall unless the current storm track changes unexpectedly.
Tonga may likely bear the brunt of the tail end of the storm, but by the time it is down there in 2-3 days, it should be fairly small.
Both Tonga Trust and Fiji FSP Offices should keep a close eye on the storm as it proceeds southward and act on any advise from the Weather Bureaus.
APCEDI is a service of the Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific (AFAP) in Sydney, Australia and the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific International (FSPI) in Suva, Fiji. It is used primarily for internal FSP information to provide information about effected areas with development projects in the AFAP, FSPI network in the Asia Pacific Region.