Cyclone Donna: 240km/h gusts ravage Vanuatu

9:50 am today

Cyclone Donna, a destructive category four storm, is now affecting all of Vanuatu, the country’s Meteorological Service says.

Category four Donna covering most of Vanuatu.

Category four Donna covering most of Vanuatu. Photo: Vanuatu Met Service

Cyclone Donna is currently over northern Vanuatu with winds gusting up to 240km/h.

The Vanuatu Meteorological Service said the storm was moving very slowly, which raised concerns that it would intensify further.

Lead forecaster Jerry Timoteo Cyclone Donna was now covering most of the vast archipelago, but the eye remained over the northernmost Torba province, where it had been for more than two days.

Mr Timoteo said it had been raining since Thursday in the capital, Port Vila, which was more than a day’s boat ride away from Torba.

The forecast trajectory of Cyclone Donna on Sunday morning, showing the category four cyclone off the country's western coast. Vanuatu was still being hard hit though, forecasters said.

The forecast trajectory of Cyclone Donna on Sunday morning, showing the category four cyclone off the country’s western coast. Vanuatu was still being hard hit though, forecasters said. Photo: Vanuatu Meteorological Service

“Donna has also hardly moved in the northern area, moving either a little bit south and then it goes back to east north east, and then a further bit south again,” he said.

“The destructive winds with gusts of 235[km/h] will continue for a few hours in the northern group.”

“Heavy rainfall and flash flooding was also expected over Torba, Sanma, Malampa and Penama provinces especially over low lying areas and areas close to river banks,” Mr Timoteo said.

He added that landslides and coastal flooding were also expected.

Donna would probably remain in the Torba province until least midday, local time.

A curfew was imposed on Friday in Torba – a remote group of islands where about 10,000 people live.

Homes and food gardens in Torba have been destroyed, but officials said it was difficult to assess the extent of the damage because of poor communication.

However, the Red Cross has been able to make contact with some volunteers in the Torres Islands via VHF radio, and confirmed some damage.

The organisation said aid and emergency supplies were on standby.

Rooves fly off in Torba province

Rooves fly off in Torba province Photo: Vanuatu Red Cross

Much of Vanuatu still has not recovered from Cyclone Pam, the massive category-five cyclone that struck the area two years ago.

Latest satellite image of Donna, covering much of Vanuatu.

Latest satellite image of Donna, covering much of Vanuatu. Photo: Vanuatu Met Service

The cyclone was forecast to bend to the south and travel towards New Caledonia on Sunday.

There, the government announced that a cyclone “pre-warning” would take effect at 11pm, local time, on Saturday, with residents urged to prepare for the cyclone’s arrival some time early next week.

In a statement, the civil security department said Donna was expected to bend its trajectory toward the territory, with wind and rain forecast to pick up from Sunday.

The pre-warning was not expected to have any effect on polling for the French presidential election in the territory on Sunday.

On its path towards New Caledonia, the cyclone would maintain its category four strength until Monday morning.

Emergency broadcasts

RNZ International will broadcast news and cyclone warnings to Vanuatu via shortwave and AM radio. Information on how to listen can be found here.

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