Oxfam and its partners are preparing to respond as Vanuatu braces for Tropical Cyclone Harold, which is currently a Category 5 storm as it tracks towards more than 200,000 people.
The potentially devastating storm is intensifying as it tracks towards Luganville, Vanuatu’s second biggest town. It is already packing wind gusts of up to 240kmh and 8m waves and is predicted to further strengthen when it makes landfall at about midnight tonight.
The cyclone left a trail of damage when it passed the Solomon Islands yesterday, at which point it was a Category 2 storm with winds of up to 160kmh.
Oxfam in Vanuatu Country Director Elizabeth Faerua said Cyclone Harold was bearing down as residents lived under a State of Emergency in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the country.
“Oxfam and its local partners are working with the National Disaster Management Office and the Provincial Governments and Area Councils to prepare for Cyclone Harold,” Ms Faerua said.
“There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Vanuatu, but a significant disaster at this time could present serious logistical challenges to delivering life-saving aid, while adding to the significant economic and social toll the global pandemic has already taken on the country.”
Oxfam is starting to assess the impacts of COVID-19 and TC Harold on people’s lives and livelihoods, and based on the results will respond in Vanuatu with cash transfer programming, collaborating with local partners and government to coordinate the response.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is working on a package of support for both countries affected by Tropical Cyclone Harold.