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Tropical cyclone Donna strikes Vanuatu

18 May 2017

Background

Tropical cyclone Donna passed to the north of Torres islands (Torba province, Vanuatu) on May 4th 2017 with wind speeds reaching a speed of 157km/hour. On May 8th, the cyclone intensified to a Category 5 storm with winds of up to 215km/hour near the centre of the storm and gusts of 300km/hour as the storm passed between New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Torba province with a population of about 10,000 people was particularly severely hit.

Donna is the worst tropical storm to hit the South Pacific in the month of May. The cyclone season in this region ends on 30 April each year, but cyclones form after this date if the sea temperatures remain warm enough and conducive wind conditions are present.

The European Humanitarian Aid Department has produced a map, dated 05 May 2017, showing cyclone Donna’s trajectory over Vanuatu.

Vanuatu

Map by kind permission of the University of Texas Map Libraries, the University of Texas at Austin

Significant issues and details emerging from the disaster

Rapid assessments have been conducted on Loh, Hui, Tegua and Toga islands. Preliminary reports have revealed:

∙    No fatalities have been confirmed to date.

∙    There are 1,200 people currently being housed in evacuation centres in Torba.

∙    In Samna, 1,000 people are staying in evacuation centres.

∙    A significant number of houses have been totally destroyed and the majority of houses damaged.

∙    Water sources have been contaminated so there is a lack of clean drinking water.

∙    Most vegetable gardens are severely damaged in all communities contacted; food supplies will last 2-3 weeks.

∙    The telecommunications tower in Loh has been damaged and repairs are unlikely to take place quickly. It supplies the only telecommunications network in Torres.

·    Hundreds of people have been evacuated in the islands of Banks and Torres (Torba province).

·    Several schools have been damaged in Vanu Lava Island (Torba).

·    The National Emergency Operations Centres has been activated and is coordinating the in-country response.

Advice for those travelling to or working in the areas affected

·    Pay particular attention to personal health and hygiene. Damage to sewers, a shortage of clean drinking water and poor sanitary conditions will increase the risk of you succumbing to diarrhoea and dysentery.

·    After floods and heavy rains the incidence of chikungunya, dengue fever, Zika virus and other insect-borne diseases can increase. Please seek further advice if you plan to travel in the coming weeks.

·    There is a risk of leptospirosis in these flood-affected areas. Ensure you have safe drinking water, keep cuts covered with waterproof dressings and shower after possible exposure.

·    Cases of locally acquired Zika have recently been confirmed in Fiji and Tonga. Ensure you take a supply of DEET repellent with you and reapply regularly during the day.

·    Medical facilities may be damaged and very stretched; even basic medical supplies may not be available. Carry extra supplies of personal medication and a first aid kit.

·    We highly recommend that you take a diarrhoea treatment kit with you if you are involved in the aid effort in the flood-affected areas, or are living in affected locations.

For further advice please click on the related information topics on the right hand panel of this screen

Sources

·    Vanuatu: Tropical cyclone Donna, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 5 May 2017

·    Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (2-8 May 2017), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 08 May 2017

·    Tropical Cyclone Donna Situation Report No 04, Government of the Republic of Vanuatu, 8 May 2017

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