Winds are getting stronger in New Caledonia as the centre of Cyclone Donna is expected to hit the Loyalty Islands late this afternoon.
The category three system is on track to hit the island of Ouvea with very destructive winds.
A level two alert has been in force for Ouvea and Lifou as well as coastal areas of the main island, which means that people have to be inside their homes or in shelters.
The maximum alert will be extended to the rest of the east coast and to the island of Mare at 5pm today.
Authorities have shut down the water supply in Hienghene, Poindimie and Canala to protect those communities from storm contamination.
Reports say eight mobile phone transmitters have stopped working along the east coast.
The curfew declared last night has meanwhile been lifted on the western side of the main island as the storm system with winds gusting to 230 km/h is approaching the Loyalty Islands.
The cyclone is then forecast to pass between Mare and the southern tip of the main island while it is continuing to weaken.
The south of the main island as well as the Isle of Pines are on alert level one, which means residents are advised to take all the standard precautions.
Businesses and schools are closed, and bus services have been suspended.
Vanuatu assess impact of Cyclone Donna
Earlier the cyclone swept over northern Vanuatu, damaging homes, crops and a cell phone tower.
The storm hit Torba, Malampa and Penama provinces as a category four, damaging homes and crops.
Forecaster at the Vanuatu Met Office Jerry Timothy said the central islands were fortunate the system has stayed out at sea.
“Sanma Province and Malampa province they’ve experienced a little bit of destructive gale force winds but at this stage it is far west of Port Vila,” Mr Timothy said.
“Nothing is happening here, the night is very calm.”
Unicef spokesperson Lachlan Forsyth said there were reports of damage to water and sanitation infrastructure.
He said Unicef was in touch with people in evacuation centres but some people had taken shelter in other places.
“In some of the northern islands some of the people have taken shelter in the evacuation centres. There are around 170-180 people sheltering in a cave, otherwise they’re sheltering in things like police stations, in schools, or even some of the sturdier buildings on those islands.”
Vanuatu’s Northern District Hospital has prepared more beds for people who may have been injured during the cyclone.
The manager of the hospital in Luganville on the island of Santo, Andy Ilo, said the health authorities in Torba have told him they’ll transfer any serious cases to his hospital.
Dr Ilo said they’ll get extra staff from Port Vila Central Hospital if needed.
The Director of the National Disaster Management office, Shadrack Welegtabit, said if countries or charities want to help, cash donations would be appreciated.
He said Vanuatu wants to avoid receiving expired or contaminated food and other unwanted goods as happened after Cyclone Pam.
World Vision said people should consider donating cash rather than goods for those who have been badly affected by Cyclone Donna.
Vanuatu country director, Michael Woolfe, said when disaster strikes, people are always wanting to do something to help out, which is really good.
But he said that disaster officials have already specifically asked for all aid agencies to tell people who wish to assist in any way to donate money.
He said goods often get held up due to the delivery time, there are port fees to be paid, and often donated goods, like toys, are actually not what people need the most.
“The biggest thing that can be done is for agencies to provide financial support,” Mr Woolfe said.