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Cyclone Lola caused widespread, severe damage to hundreds of homes, schools and food gardens.

Photo/Joseph Molkis/RNZ Pacific

Pacific Region

Tropical Cyclone Lola: Two people reported dead in Vanuatu

Vanuatu government has declared a state of emergency for Torba, Sanma, Penama, Malampa and Shefa provinces for six months.

Caleb Fotheringham, RNZ Pacific Journalist
Published
30 October 2023, 12:31pm
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At least two people were killed on Ambrym Island in Vanuatu that was one of the worst hit islands by severe tropical cyclone Lola last week.

The cyclone directly hit the island on 25 October at category 4 strength.

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Vanuatu Nicci Simmonds, who visited the islands of Ambrym and Pentecost, said she saw a lot of damage, although the full picture is not yet known.

"We saw there were a lot of roads out, a lot of traditional housing flattened," Simmonds told RNZ's Morning Report.

She said one of the health clinics on Ambrym had been destroyed where two people were killed.

"It was one pregnant woman, who hadn't been able to get medical attention because the roads were out, so she passed away with her unborn child, and there was also an elderly woman who the chiefs had implied had a stroke or a heart attack," Simmonds said.

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Simmonds said the damage was severe but localised, with the two provinces being affected differently.

She said because the cyclone worst affected isolated rural areas it was difficult to find out how many people are displaced from their homes.

Simmonds said people were collecting root crops to sustain them until government food supplies reach them.

She expects New Zealand to help provide water and shelter to affected areas.

'A giant flood came down'

The cyclone directly hit Pentecost Island on Wednesday night, with average wind speeds close to the eye around 200km/h.

Andrew Gray a teacher in Vanuatu's Pentecost Island said Lola lasted longer than previous cyclones.

"The wind was blowing all night and there were points when it was quite scary," Gray said.

"Everyone hunkered down in whatever building they thought was most likely to survive the cyclone.

"We were in our own house listening to the sound of things getting destroyed around you and hoping that the roof of your own house wasn't going to be next."

Gray said the landscape had completely changed the morning after the cyclone.

"Before there was greenery and now there was brownness and things flapping in the wind and buildings gone.

"A giant flood came down the mountain where no flood had ever come before."

Another teacher Kolika Markie said two of the classrooms were completely destroyed.

He said Lola came as students were preparing for their end of year exams.

The Vanuatu government has declared a state of emergency (SOE) for Torba, Sanma, Penama, Malampa and Shefa provinces for six months.

Minister for Climate Change Ralph Regenvanu said the SOE did not impact ordinary Ni-Vanuatu people.

"Nothing changes for ordinary citizens and residents," Regenvanu posted on X (formerly Twitter).

"SOE is directed at government departments to facilitate response to impacts of TC Lola." - RNZ Pacific