4 Apr 2020

Vanuatu on Red Alert as it braces for severe Tropical Cyclone Harold.

9:11 pm on 4 April 2020

The Vanuatu provinces of Torba and Sanma are on Red Alert, as they brace for a category 3 cyclone with gusts of 160 km/h.

Red Alert, the highest alert level for a cyclone in Vanuatu, means a Cyclone was imminent and that people needed to stay in shelter or a safe place.

Forecast track map for severe Tropical Cyclone Harold.

Forecast track map for severe Tropical Cyclone Harold. Photo: Fiji Meteorology Service

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department said severe Tropical Cyclone Harold is moving in an east south-easterly direction at 11 km/h.

It said damaging gale force winds of 150km/h with gusts to 160km/h are expected to affect Torba and Sanma Provinces in the next 6 to 12 hours.

Destructive Storm force winds of 125km/h with gusts up to 185km/h within 40 Nautical miles from its center are expected to affect Torba and Sanma provinces in the next 12 to 24 hours.

Heavy rainfall and flooding over low lying areas and areas close to the river banks including coastal flooding expected over Torba and Sanma Provinces and extending to Malampa, Penama and Shefa later tonight.

The Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office advises that Red Alert is in effect for Torba and Sanma Provinces, while Yellow Alert for Malampa and Penama.

People over Torba, Sanma, Penama and Malampa provinces are advised to listen to Radio Vanuatu and all other Radio Outlets to get the latest update on this system.

The MV Taemareho

Officers from the Royal Solomon Island Police Force in Auki are now assisting the captain and crew of the boat Taemareho to confirm how many people are missing from the boat.

The MV Taemareho in the early hours of 3 April 2020 travelled from Taivu to Aiarai in West Are 'are in Malaita Province.

Reports reaching the Police say there was no record of the names of the people who boarded the boat when it left Honiara for Aiarai in West Are'Are on the evening of 2 March 2020.

The Solomon Island Star reports that this makes it difficult to determine at this stage how many people are missing until a thorough check has been done.

The people, who went missing from the boat, are believed to have fallen off during heavy seas caused by the bad weather associated with Tropical Cyclone Harold currently affecting the Solomon Islands.

Director of RSIPF Maritime Department, Chief Superintendent Charles Fox Sau said initial reports say the captain of the boat had no knowledge of the missing people until he was informed when the boat arrived at its destination at Aiarai.

Solomon Islands coastal regions have taken a battering from Cyclone Harold

Solomon Islands coastal regions have taken a battering from Cyclone Harold Photo: Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office/George Baragam

"I want to strongly warn boat owners and their skippers to take note of weather reports issued by the Met Service before embarking on any trip between our islands."

"We do not want you to put the lives of your passengers at risk," Maritime Director Sau emphasises", Chief Superintendent Sau said.

A search and rescue operation was still underway.

The passengers were returning to the provinces as part of a national repatriation exercise ordered by the government as part of its Covid-19 preparedness strategy.

Flooding along the Kukum Highway in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara. Cyclone Harold 3 April 2020.

Flooding along the Kukum Highway in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara. Cyclone Harold 3 April 2020. Photo: Australian High Commission in Solomon Islands

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs