TC Harold

Cyclone Harold updates: Vanuatu braces for direct hit from 'monster' storm

Cyclone Harold - a category five, the highest possible - has sat just to the west of Vanuatu's central islands for much of the past day, gathering significant strength in the past 12 hours.

Fred Jockley, a managing forecaster at the Vanuatu Meteorological Service, said this storm was the most serious since Cyclone Pam, which destroyed much of the country in 2015, killing few people, but setting livelihoods, infrastructure and the economy back years.

Cyclone Harold bears down on Vanuatu, predicted to bring winds of 215kph

Cyclone Harold strengthened to a category five storm overnight, bringing winds of around 215 kilometres per hour near its centre.

Vanuatu Red Cross disaster management coordinator Augustine Garae said there had already been reports of heavy rains and flooding in the country's northern islands.

"Now safety is a priority, for people to find safe shelter before the cyclone makes landfall in their area," he said.

Tropical Cyclone warning for Vanuatu provinces of SANMA, TORBA, PENAMA and MALAMPA

At 5:00am local time, Severe Tropical Cyclone HAROLD [914hPa] Category 5, was located at 15.5 degrees South 166.3 degrees East.

This is about 100KM west of Luganville and 145KM west northwest of Malekula. The system is positioned at the center of square letter F, number 5 (F,5) of the Vanuatu Tropical Cyclone Tracking Map.

Severe Tropical Cyclone HAROLD has been moving in an easterly direction at 18KM/HR (10Knots) in the past 3 hours.

Maximum sustained winds close to the centre are estimated at 215KM/HR (115Knots).

Food security an issue in Solomon Islands following TC Harold

The director of the national disaster office, Loti Yates, said much of the plains are under water after days of torrential rain, and several villages have lost their food source.

Mr Yates said the plains also supply much of the food for the densely-populated capital, Honiara.

"These are the communities that are actually feeding Honiara and the markets, and so that's going to impact on their livelihoods as well. So it's going to be a huge challenge for us."

TC Harold is now a powerful category 5 cyclone

The system is moving slowly in a north north-easterly direction at 7km and extreme weather will be felt in parts of the Vanuatu group as the system continues to move closer.

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazzards Department said maximum sustained winds close to its centre are estimated at 215km/h, with gusts upto to 235km/h.

The National Disaster Management Office said the provinces of Sanma, Penama and Malampa are now on Red Alert while Torba and Shefa are on Yellow Alert.

Dozens feared missing off boat in Solomons amid cyclone

It is understood the vessel MV Taimareho was carrying passengers from the capital Honiara to West Are Are in Malaita Province last night when it encountered bad conditions.

The Solomon Islands Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre says it only received word of the stricken ship's ordeal late this morning, and its officers are scrambling to launch a rescue operation.

According to the cente, the vessel encountered very rough seas and strong winds whipped up by Cyclone Harold between 2am and 3am this morning - a number of passengers were washed overboard.

Vanuatu on alert for TC Harold

Yellow alert forecasts a Cyclone within 12 hours and people need to get ready and act now. The next level up is Red which means a Cyclone is imminent and that people need to stay in shelter or a safe place.

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department has issued a Tropical Cyclone Warning for TORBA and SANMA.

It said the provinces can expect strong winds and heavy rainfalls and flooding over low lying areas and areas close to the river banks including coastal flooding.

TC Harold batters Solomon Islands as it heads to Vanuatu

The Solomon Islands Meteorology Service said a Tropical Cyclone Warning is current for all Solomon Islands provinces.

The category 1 system is slamming Solomon Islands as it makes it way down the country, heading towards Vanuatu.

On Friday, the Director of the Director of the National Disaster Management Office, Loti Yates, said at least two ships had been washed ashore, fallen trees were blocking roads and the power was out in many areas.

TC Harold could further intensify and move towards Vanuatu

At 11am local time, Tropical Cyclone Harold (990hPa) Cat1 moved into Vanuatu's area of responsibility and was located near 10.8S 161.1E. Tropical Cyclone

The latest alert said Harold is positioned at the bottom left of square letter A of the Vanuatu Tropical Cyclone Tracking Map.

This is about 195KM southeast of Honiara. In the past 6 hours, the system was moving in an east southeasterly direction at 34KM/HR.

Gale force winds of 70KM/HR increasing to 90KM/HR are expected within 85 Nautical miles from its centre.