9 Apr 2020

Close to 70 percent of Vanuatu's Luganville destroyed by Cyclone Harold

4:12 pm on 9 April 2020

The MP for the cyclone-devastated Vanuatu town of Luganville says up to 70 percent of buildings have been destroyed.

Matai Seremaiah returned to the country's second-largest town yesterday, and said it had been transformed by the direct hit from the category five Cyclone Harold this week.

Aerial shot of Luganville

Aerial shot of Luganville Photo: Leo Pax

He said two people died on Malo island, and he estimated more than a thousand people were in evacuation centres.

Mr Seremaiah said power had been restored to the hospital, but there was a dire need for water and shelter.

"When I got down yesterday I was just lost, just don't know where to start," he said.

"What we're doing now is we went on to some communities and started organising young people to group up and to equip them with chainsaws and start clearing up the yards, because if we don't clear up the yards they start to attract mosquitos and then the next thing we have malaria or dengue fever coming in."

The MP said help was desperately needed, with many now homeless.

He said contact was still to be made to many rural areas, but assessments from places like Pentecost were grim.

"There's a lot of injuries but all the dispensaries are down and they're airlifting them to Port Vila. The cyclone passed them at night and it's really bad, from the central part to the southern part of Pentecost. Many people are living outside at the moment."

Roof of Luganville town hall blown off

Roof of Luganville town hall blown off Photo: Petro Aymar and Osy Rarua.

NZ sends plane to Vanuatu

Meanwhile a New Zealand military plane will head to Vanuatu later this week carrying aid supplies and a helicopter.

It's the latest announcement of support for Vanuatu.

Foreign minister Winston Peters said the Hercules would be loaded with supplies including satellite phones, chainsaws and agricultural kits.

It would return with New Zealanders who wanted to leave Vanuatu after the country closed its borders to keep out Covid-19.

The private helicopter would help with medical evacuations.

Mr Peters said serious protocols would be applied to ensure support got to those who needed it, while also keeping Vanuatu free of the coronavirus.

New Zealand's total support so far amounts to $US1.5 million.

A RNZAF C-130 Hercules is delivering about 230 kgs of school supplies to PNG

A RNZAF Hercules is taking supplies and a helicopter to Vanuatu Photo: NZDF

Borders to remain closed

Earlier Vanuatu's government said its borders would remain closed as the country grappled with the response to the cyclone.

The government relaxed some of its Covid-19 lockdown measures to allow people to congregate in evacuation centres and to travel domestically.

But it said foreign assistance would be strictly controlled so the coronavirus isn't introduced to Vanuatu.

The National Disaster Management Office said all incoming relief supplies would have to be sealed and handled by people wearing appropriate protective equipment.

Any flight crews would then hand goods over to local personnel at the airport, and crews would not cross the border.