Tropical Cyclone Lola: Vanuatu on high alert as storm makes landfall on northern island

Tropical cyclone Lola has cut off communications with the Penama province since last night as it makes landfall on the northern islands, says Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai.

As of Wednesday early morning, Fiji Meteorological Service said the storm was passing over Pentecost Island and forecast to make landfall on Malekula Island.

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Department has downgraded Lola to category 3.

But with the communications cut off, it was hard to know what the impact had been on those islands at this stage, Salwai told Morning Report.

On-site teams would be reporting back on conditions today, he said.

Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has activated offices in six provinces, ready to carry out a rapid assessment after the cyclone.

The capital, Port Vila, is on red alert and all government offices, markets, and banks are closed until further notice.

RNZ's Pacific Vanuatu correspondent said he had had reports from people on the island of Motalava in Torba province on Tuesday that winds damaged banana trees.

He said he was told the sea around the island was rough, and in some parts of the island waves were washing inland.

While the primce minister believed there was sufficient warning for people to shelter from the cyclone, many still had unrepaired homes from the previous cyclone and schools were operating as temporary shelters.

"Shelter will be very important, but probably food because this year we have three cyclones, two in the beginning of the year, Kevin and Judy, almost affected the whole islands of the country."

The three cyclones hitting the country so far this year was an indication of climate change, he said.