25 Feb 2004

Cyclone Ivy now lashing Vanuatu with winds up to 176 kilometres an hour

4:10 pm on 25 February 2004

The National Disaster Management Office in Vanuatu says it has activated a red alert in the northern province of Penama which is feeling the brunt of Cyclone Ivy.

Cyclone Ivy is situated 10 nautical miles northeast of the island of Maewo which it is lashing with 140 kilometre an hour winds, gusting to 176 kilometres an hour, and heavy rain.

Damaging storm-force winds are expected to hit nearby Malampa and Sanma provinces and the Banks Islands.

Job Esau, the office general manager, says the red alert for Penama province, which also takes in Ambae and Pentecost islands, means its approximately eight to nine-thousand inhabitants must stay indoors.

He says a yellow alert -- meaning the cyclone will hit within 12 hours -- has been declared for Sanma, taking in Espiritu Santo, and Torba provinces.

Mr Esau says the cyclone is slow-moving, and expected to travel south through the archipelago toward Efate and the capital Port Vila.

Job Esau says it's not clear what time it could reach Efate, as many details about the cyclone, including the location of its eye, remain unclear, but it could be tonight.

But he says it is shutting down businesses and transport.

"The domestic airlines to northern ports have been ceased because of heavy flooding and all aircraft on route to the northern islands have been ceased for a while, since 10 o'clock this morning."

All marine vessels have been informed by the maritime authority to seek shelter, especially [for] the northern groups. All other departments of the Government and even the NGOs are making contact to collect information so that we can have a clear idea of the situation on the ground.

Job Esau of the Vanuatu Disaster Management Office.