15 Feb 2019

Cyclone damage reported in Vanuatu

8:53 pm on 15 February 2019

Unverified reports from Vanuatu suggest some homes and gardens have been destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Oma, the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) says.

NDMO spokesperson Presley Tari said the office was waiting for Oma to clear the northern provinces before going out to assess damage.

 Tropical Cyclone Forecast Track Map Number 25 issued at 12:05 pm VUT Friday 15 February.

Tropical Cyclone Forecast Track Map Number 25 issued at 12:05 pm VUT Friday 15 February. Photo: Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department

The government has issued its highest alert level of red for Torba, Sanma, Penama and Melampa provinces.

Oma is still a category two system and was 210km west southwest of Santo and 295km west northwest of Malekula at 6pm local time

Between 3pm and 6pm local time, the cyclone OMA moved in a southwesterly direction at 8km/hr.

Authorities in Vanuatu are warning of torrential rain, damaging winds and violent storm surges.

The meteorology service has described sea swells in the area as phenomenal and is urging people not to go to sea.

Mr Tari said he had been received reports of damage from the NDMO team based at Luganville.

"They have received calls from the west of Santo saying they have a huge amount of wind blowing and very rough sea and big rain.

"There has been several damages but after the cyclone we'll have our team to do the assessment and then we can have proper information for this."

Reports from Torba and Sanma indicated some homes and gardens had been destroyed, Mr Tari said

A river in Sanma had reportedly burst its banks and damaged roads as well as washing away taro gardens, meaning a food shortage was likely, he said.

Red Cross volunteers in Sanma province last night were removing fallen trees and checking on families at evacuation centres, according to the agency's Hanna Butler.

Meanwhile, in Torba Province Ms Butler said volunteers there had helped the Motalava Disaster and Climate Change Committee move coastal dwellers to safe houses as the storm loomed.

A New Zealander living in Luganville, Kevin McCarthy, said conditions on Friday were muggy with wind and rain.

"Damn thing keeps circling around and won't leave," he said.

Tropical Cyclone Oma has been lingering over Vanuatu's northern provinces since Tuesday.

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