On Monday, April 6, media reports confirmed that severe Tropical Cyclone Harold has made landfall on Santo Island in Vanuatu at approximately 13:00 (local time), causing flooding and serious infrastructural damage to buildings particularly in Sanma province. Communication has been cut off in the islands of Santo and Malekula, and the roof of Santo's municipality building has reportedly collapsed. There have been no immediate reports of any injuries. According to local media reports, it is unclear if welfare organisations will be able to send support to the affected areas due to an existing inter-island travel ban implemented by authorities due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
As of 17:00 (local time), the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has upgraded Cyclone Harold to a category 5 tropical storm (highest category) as it made landfall and is located at approximately 15.7°S 167.8°E (map here). Harold is moving east at 16 kph (10 mph) and has maximum sustained winds of 215 kph (134 mph). A red alert remains in place for Sanma, Penama, and Malampa provinces, while a yellow alert has been issued for Torba and Shefa provinces. Hurricane force winds are expected to continue in the next six to 12 hours, and more rainfall and flooding is expected in Luganville and Malekula. Earlier on Friday, April 3, at least five people drowned, while 25 people remain missing after a ferry was swept off near the Solomon Islands as a result of heavy seas caused by an approaching Cyclone Harold.
Associated flooding, transportation and business disruptions are anticipated, as well as disruptions to power and communication services, in the coming hours and days.
Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities, anticipate adverse weather and power and transportation disruptions, and remember that running water can be dangerous - 15 cm (6 in) is enough to knock over an adult - and never drive through flooded streets; floodwater may also contain wastewater and chemical products.
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