Donna now Category 5 cyclone; wind gusts up to 300km/h

Severe Tropical Cyclone Donna has been upgraded to a Category 5 system. Currently, it is about offshore, 295km off Malakula, and 370km west of Efate. Its offshore trajectory means that Vanuatu’s islands will be spared the full force of the most destructive winds, which are gusting at 300km/h. However, Vanuatu Meteo is taking no chances and is warning of destructive winds up to 160km/h tonight in Sanma, Malampa and Shefa provinces. Heavy rainfall, flooding and storm surges are also likely.

No loss of life or major damage to homes or infrastructure have been reported by the National Disaster Management Office yet, but there are reports of flooding and coastal damage, and damage to crops. This may to change once full communications and transport links have been re-established with the more northerly islands.

Flooding from Cyclone Donna in Sola, Vanua Lava, two days ago. Photo: Erick Shedrack

Flooding from Cyclone Donna in Sola, Vanua Lava, 6 May 2017. Photo: Erick Shedrack

The Vanuatu Red Cross is standing by in the Banks and Torres Islands to help to families whose subsistence gardens have suffered extensive damage. A reserve of tarpaulins is also available for use once particulars of damage reports come in. Senior government officials and the NDMO are seeking reports from colleagues, but advise aerial surveillance will certainly be necessary before any plan can be set up.

The whole country is in cyclone readiness mode. Schools were closed everywhere. Domestic flights are all cancelled, including all flights from Santo. Banks, including the Reserve Bank, are closed and most government services shut their doors this morning.

There is some good news today, nevertheless — another young ni-Vanuatu graduate has achieved her PhD in linguistics. Lana Takau graduated first at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and then came her Master’s and now a PhD from Australia’s Newcastle University. She has been supported by the Christensen Fund, and with their help is working on a project to sustain endangered Vanuatu languages by teaching in those languages in schools. (Daily Post)