Tropical cyclone Harold carried winds of up to 250 kilometers an hour and was approaching the strength of a Category 5 hurricane, making it the strongest storm to hit Vanuatu in five years and the strongest never recorded on the country’s largest island, Espiritu Santo.
The cyclone hit Espiritu Santo on Monday, then moved southeast on Pentecost Island a few hours later. Harold got even stronger during the day, with winds increasing to 270 km / h and gusts reaching over 300 km / h.
Winds on the Vanuatu Islands are expected to ease Tuesday as storms move away from the nation.
The Vanuatu Department of Meteorology and Geohazards had warned that the storm would bring hurricane-force winds with heavy rain and flash floods over the lower areas of the islands. Some communication lines have been interrupted.
The Vanuatu government declared a state of emergency on March 26 due to the coronavirus panic, stopping flights to and from the country. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the last international flight departed on March 21.
The country has yet to register confirmed cases of the virus, but social gatherings of more than five people have been banned, shops, bars and restaurants have been closed at 7:30 p.m. and public transportation stops at 9 p.m.
The Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office said the restrictions would not apply to those seeking safe homes or evacuation centers due to the storm.
Tropical cyclone Harold is expected to continue moving southeast over the next 36 to 48 hours and is expected to pass near Fiji, which could result in hurricane-force winds over the most populous southern island of Viti Levu on Wednesday. .