Cyclone Harold: Superstorm hits Vanuatu after killing 27 in Solomons

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Media captionThe storm is coming to Luganville (courtesy ADRA Vanuatu via Reuters)

A cyclone bringing winds of 135 mph (215 km / h) has arrived in the Pacific nation of Vanuatu.

Cyclone Harold is a category five storm – the most severe – and has already killed 27 people in the neighboring Solomon Islands.

The victims were swept away by a ferry which defied the cyclone warnings.

Vanuatu, home to around 300,000 people, is already in a state of emergency because of the coronavirus – and is awaiting the results of the general election.

The storm particularly affected the province of Sanma, which is home to the second largest city in the country, Luganville.

Although no injuries have been reported, photos show roofs torn from buildings and downed power lines. Some people have taken refuge in caves.

“There is a lot of damage in Sanma, they have lost a lot of buildings,” Jacqueline de Gaillande, director general of the Vanuatu Red Cross, told Reuters.

The Vanuatu meteorological department recorded winds of 135 mph at Sanma but said gusts – which are less sustained – reached 145 mph (235 km / h).

A major international effort was required after the last Category Five storm – Cyclone Pam – hit Vanuatu in 2015.


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Media captionCyclone Harold Predicts Extreme Weather Conditions in Fiji and Tonga

Although Vanuatu has not confirmed a Covid-19 case, it declared a state of emergency last month, shortly after the country’s vote in the general election.

The counting of the votes was broadcast live, as the rules of social distancing made it difficult to have enough observers in a room.

Unofficial results have been released, with official results expected soon.

Solomon Islands police said on Sunday that five of the 27 bodies lost in the ferry disaster had been found.

MV Taimareho set sail in strong winds with more than 700 people on board, apparently as part of a virus removal program.

It was initially thought that the ship had only 60 people on board.

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