10 Jan 2016

Vanuatu's Tafea province feeling effects of Ula

8:51 pm on 10 January 2016

The Vanuatu Meteorology service says Tafea province is feeling the effects of tropical cyclone Ula.

Tropical cyclone Ula

Tropical cyclone Ula Photo: Vanuatu Meteorology Services

Cyclone Ula has been upgraded to a category four and is tracking towards the southern islands and a red alert was issued for Aneityum Island.

At 5pm local time on Sunday, Ula was about 95 kilometres east southeast of Aneityum and 180 kilometres east southeast of Tanna. The storm was moving in a southwest direction at 13 kilometres per hour.

Vanuatu Meteorological service lead forecaster Fred Jockley said he had spoken to people on Aneityum, Futuna, and south Tanna.

"People are calling in and telling us that yes, they are receiving strong winds already, and people from Futuna have gone out to tighten their houses, local houses in Futuna."

Mr Jockley said some village chiefs in the province had called local fishermen into shore and had warned people not to go out to sea.

Earlier, people in Tafea province had been urged to seek shelter as cyclone Ula moved closer to the country.

The Disaster Management Office and other government bodies were meeting with international aid agencies to determine what response may be needed.

A map forecasting the path Cyclone Ula is likely to take through Tafea province on Sunday afternoon.

A map forecasting the path Cyclone Ula is likely to take through Tafea province on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Vanuatu Meteorological Service

Tafea province was one of the worst affected by the category five Cyclone Pam, which struck in March last year, and has been struggling with drought caused by this year's El Niño system.

Despite this, the Vanuatu country director for the NGO Oxfam, Colin Collett van Rooyen, said the country was prepared to deal with another cyclone.

The first images emerge of destruction in Tanna, Vanuatu, after Cyclone Pam.

Cyclone Pam in March 2015 caused extensive damage to the Vanuatu province of Tafea. This picture was taken on the island of Tanna. Photo: SUPPLIED / Jeremy Pinero

Mr Collett van Rooyen said there are processes and resources to manage if Ula did cause damage.

"The islands have community disaster preparedness groups. So they have their own processes that they then put in place, particularly issues like securing food, making water supplies are secure, making sure people have access to shelter. Those community processes have been activated."

Last weekend, Ula caused minor damage in northern Tonga and Fiji's Lau group as a category two system, but it has strengthened again in the past 48 hours.

To the southwest, New Caledonia's government issued a cyclone alert level for the island of Mare.

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