Monday, March 6, 2023

Vanuatu Braces for Another Cyclone Following Judy’s Devastation

Just one day after being battered by Tropical Cyclone (TC) Judy, Vanuatu is bracing itself for a second cyclone which is intensifying with the possibility of developing into a category 3 system.

Tropical Cyclone (TC) Kevin will bring more destruction while the people are still cleaning-up after category 3 TC Judy. Some homes have not been rebuilt and the government is yet to assess the widespread damage.

Warnings have already been issued for strong winds, heavy rainfalls and rough swells before the occurrence of TC Kevin.

The severe weather has triggered suspension of both domestic and international flights while ships, boats and small fishing rafts are advised not to go out to sea.

Some essential services like the banks will be temporarily closed today. Disruptions to electricity and telecommunication services are possible and government workers will resume work once the situation is declared all clear.

As of yesterday night, a Red Alert has been issued for SANMA, MALAMPA and PENAMA Provinces, Yellow Alert for TORBA and SHEFA.

Originated south of Solomon Islands, TC Kevin was upgraded to category 2 yesterday. As of yesterday night, it was positioned about 330km west of Santo and 430km west northwest of Malekula.

According to the Manager of the Weather Forecast Section, Fred Jockley, the cyclone will pass near the central and southern parts of Vanuatu.

It is likely the system will develop into a category 2 system and will further strengthen into a category 3 system, he said. He added that the system is expected to make landfall on Tanna on Saturday, tomorrow.

The cyclone is expected to leave Vanuatu water by tomorrow.

According to Weather Forecast Manager Jockley, this is not the first time for them to issue warnings for two systems in Vanuatu’s area of responsibility simultaneously.

People are advised to take precautions and follow advices from the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD) and the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) to keep safe.

Meanwhile, the extent of the damage from the two systems will be known once the government make a full assessment. Based on initial reports, there is widespread damage to buildings, homes and crops in affected areas.


Flooding, landslides in WNB

March 6, 2023 The National PNG

Houses affected by flooding.

Homes churches and schools have been hit with flooded, with landslides closing off roads and displacing families as the National Weather Service issues a strong wind and thunderstorm warning for the next 24 hours in West New Britain.

Governor Sasindran Muthuvel told The National yesterday that the provincial government was working with provincial disaster office, to assess the damage and respond to the disaster.

“Some homes, churches and schools are submerged in water, including roads while some roads are blocked off with debris, we are also working with Provincial Department of Works and Highway to help clear some roads.

“Some private road construction companies and local youths are also helping us clear roads.

“We have a full team deployed to collect data on the damages but if the rain continues for the next 24 hours, then we may be looking at an even bigger disaster with not only floods but landslides as well,” he said.

Talasea MP, Freddie Reu Kumai had written to the Prime Minister James Marape to direct all relevant Government departments and entities to support and provide relief supplies and accessories for displaced families in affected communities.

“Particularly for Talasea Rural local level governemnt (LLG) and within Kimbe Urban LLG.

“Generally, the roads are greatly affected, in the last 24 hours, heavy rains have caused a total washout of the main Talasea-Kimbe Highway.

“In Kimbe town, a road in ward four was washed away with parts of the main highway closed off with debris from the flood and landslides,” Kumai said.

He also said that many families were displaced by flooding and landslides.

“In ward one area of Talasea Rural covering Kumbago Plantation, Dagi LSS and Nahavio settlements, it is a complete washout with more than 500 families displaced, another 600 families at Aling and more than 150 families in Gigo settlement are all displaced.”

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service has issued a 24 hour strong winds warning of up to 33 knots and thunderstorms for the province.

National Weather Service duty forecaster Peter Warupi told The National that strong winds and rain would continue for the next 24 hours, as the country hit the peak of its wet season.

“There was also a tropical low near the Coral Sea area over the last couple of weeks that added on to this.

“We have also issued a warning to small craft owners,” he said.

Tropical Cyclone in Vanuatu: Over 400 Evacuated

As a result of Tropical Cyclone (TC) Judy, over 400 people on Efate have been evacuated to four different evacuation centers: Anglican Church, Nangire Church, Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC), and Wan Smolbag (WSB).

SHEFA Provincial Disaster Officer at the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), Eddy Maliliu, said, there were only four evacuation centers that they have identified for people to move to if their homes are not safe.

“With the help of the Police Operation Center, over 400 people were moved to the evacuation centers during TC Judy,” he said.

“The Anglican Church accommodates a total of 31 people, Nangire Church holds 11 people, VCC has 34, and WSB a total of 380 people.”

Mr. Maliliu said many of the people who have been evacuated are those whose homes have been flooded and damaged.

“Therefore, people who have lost their houses and belongings were advised to stay in the evacuation centers until it is safe for them to return,” he said.

“We understand that there is another cyclone that is coming, however, people who have gone back to their houses can still come back to the evacuation centers.”

The duty forecaster at the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Department (VMGD), Gino Leo, has confirmed that, Vanuatu is expecting another cyclone today.

“As of 12pm yesterday, the cyclone was located in the west of Torres, with a force that has reached category 1,” he said.

“Named Kevin, this TC is moving in a east and south east direction.”

Mr. Leo added that it is most likely that Vanuatu will experience strong gale force winds as it has been monitored that TC Kevin will travel across central Vanuatu.

Meanwhile, Mr. Maliliu reiterated that people need to be responsive to the warnings that NDMO has been issuing, as the cyclone is on its way.

“Yesterday, people were moving into the evacuation centers during the red alert, which is not good and unsafe,” he said.

“With the cyclone that is fast approaching, people who think that their home is not safe should move quickly to a safe house or an evacuation center before the red alert.”

VSAT connects Tanna and Aneityum to outside world

Tropical Cyclone (TC) Judy caused extensive damage to infrastructure and homes in the southern islands of Tanna, Aneityum, and Erromango in Vanuatu. The cyclone knocked out telecommunication networks in the affected areas, leaving residents cut off from the outside world.

Despite this, Williams Worwor from the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) was able to provide updates on the situation using satellite-based Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT). He confirmed that both the Digicel and Vodafone networks were down in Tanna, and he was using VSAT to relay information to the outside world.

Photos shared by Mr. Worwor on Facebook showed the destruction caused by the cyclone in the Lenakel area, including thick earth blocking the road to Isangel. Meanwhile, Selwyn Daniel, the Aneityum Area Administrator, also confirmed that both telecommunication networks were down since Wednesday night, and he was communicating through VSAT.

Mr. Daniel reported that the destruction on parts of Aneityum that he visited yesterday was not as severe as expected. There was no flash flooding reported, although most rivers rose higher than their level before reducing to their normal level. However, the island’s residents are facing a significant challenge in the coming days as their root crops may spoil soon.

On Erromango, the Category 4 cyclone caused significant damage. The Area Secretary for North Erromango, Remy Nambill, reported that most family homes on the southern part of the island were destroyed, and there was flash flooding and damaged gardens. One incident involved a tree falling on a family home and injuring a mother. Food security will be a significant concern for the island’s residents in the coming days.

Families whose homes were destroyed have relocated to the nearest settlements as they await Cyclone Kevin. The TAFEA Provincial Secretary General and Minister of Sports, MP Tomker Netvunei, are aware of the situation on the ground. However, with telecommunication networks down, the recovery efforts may face significant challenges.