Locals board up their shops in Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila on April 6, 2020 ahead of Tropical … [+]
AFP via Getty Images
In the midst of a global pandemic unlike anything seen in generations, the small island nation of Vanuatu took a direct hit from a category 5 cyclone Monday, one of the strongest storms to ever hit the country in the south Pacific.
World Vision’s Vanuatu director Kendra Gates Derousseau told AFP that the charity’s local manager estimated about half of homes in the nation’s second largest town, Luganville, had been destroyed.
“She mentioned that she has heard no reports of casualties or any significant injuries at this time,” the Port Vila-based aid worker added.
The nation has been hit by major cyclones before, but this time it may not be so quick to ask for recovery aid, as the country is determined to remain one of the few nations with no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19.
“It (the aid effort) has to be locally led, locally driven, working with humanitarian partners who are currently in-country,” Gates Derousseau added.
The nation’s National Disaster Management Office said that communications had been cut to many parts of the archipelago and domestic flights have been grounded until Friday.
Harold is thought to have already taken at least 27 lives last week, when a ferry in the Solomon Islands was caught in the maelstrom early Friday morning, tossing a number of passengers overboard.
Cyclone Harold seen from NASA;s Suomi satellite.
Next, the cyclone is taking aim at Fiji, which is in the midst of trying to keep the coronavirus from spreading beyond the 15 confirmed cases on the islands.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecasts that Harold will make a brief landfall in the nation’s borders Tuesday evening EDT with strong category 4 or category 5 winds:
“Through the next 24 hours, the intensity should remain around 105 to 110 knots (121 to 127 mph/194 to 204 kph), although the tropical cyclone may get stronger if an eye were to form.”
Additionally, Fiji’s Meteorological Service is warning of gusts that could reach 260 kph (162 mph).
The government of Fiji is advising citizens to stay home in the face of both the cyclone and coronavirus threats. However, the nation has also setup evacuation centers should that become impossible. How the storm’s fallout will impact the spread of the virus remains to be seen.