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Sunset at Baravet, Pentecost Island, after Cyclone Lola.

Andrew Gray/Facebook

Pacific Region

Vanuatu views trail of destruction as Cyclone Lola weakens

The tropical cyclone is now category one, but damage is still expected as it moves south.

Khalia Strong
Khalia Strong
26 October 2023, 6:34am
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Severe Tropical Cyclone Lola has been downgraded to a category one storm and is moving away from Vanuatu after battering the islands for over 24 hours.

Staff from Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office will assess the damage this morning in provinces hit by the cyclone when it was at its strongest, category 5 status.

RNZ Pacific correspondent Temae Baeri is in South Pentecost, and says the damage appears to be more severe than Cyclone Harold in 2020.

He says all houses are destroyed, roads are blocked by fallen trees, and a landslide is restricting access between parts of the island.


Also on Pentecost, local teacher Andrew Gray questions whether the new infrastructure was built to handle major weather events.

"It seems to have happened exactly as we all said. The new bridges couldn't cope with a cyclone. Water built up behind them and overtopped the embankment, seriously damaging the road.

"To CCECC's [construction company] credit, none of the new bridges completely broke ... but a redesign is clearly needed if the new road is going to last."

World Visions's Kendra Derousseau told RNZ Pacific there is widespread destruction in the eastern islands of Penama and Malampa, which were hit yesterday while Lola was a Category 4.

"Penama province was the first province in which TC Lola made landfall, and having just gone through dual category 4 cyclones myself in March, I can tell you that there will be major shelter damage and significant agricultural loss, and thus, food insecurity."

The government’s telecommunication networks are down in north Vanuatu, and Vodafone and Digicel are both trying to restore connection.

Cyclone Lola damaged the Utnensuban River bridge. Photo/Andrew Gray

The onslaught continues

As of 3am local time, (5am NZ time), Lola is 100 km northeast of Efate, moving east northeast, with wind gusts up to 105 km an hour.

Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu Heidi Bootle says it is expected to reach Malampa and Shefa province this morning, where a red alert is in place.

“People are advised to take extra precautions as flash flooding is expected, and very rough seas all over.”

Vanuatu's Meteorology and Geo-Hazards department update warns of heavy rainfall and flash flooding for low lying and coastal areas for the next 24 hours, along with rough seas and ‘phenomenal’ swells.

A marine strong wind warning is in place for all Vanuatu waters, and storm surges along coastlines are expected.

Cyclone Lola is the first preseason cyclone in the South Pacific since 1970 and is the earliest category 5 cyclone on record in the southern hemisphere.

Lola is tracking towards New Caledonia and will dissipate by the weekend as it heads south towards New Zealand.