Tropical Cyclone Harold heads for Vanuatu

Central Vanuatu has not experienced a Category 3 cyclone since 2004 when there was widespread 'moderate damage'.

    Tropical Cyclone Harold is the first of the season to head for Vanuatu.

    The most recent cyclone to cross central Vanuatu was in 2018 but at the strength of only a tropical storm. Harold is rapidly deepening and is forecast to hit the same area as the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

    At least 24 passengers were reported missing in the Solomon Islands after a ferry sailed into Cyclone Harold's strong winds and violent seas on Friday morning. At least two dozen passengers were reported overboard, the report added.

    Harold is still strengthening and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) noted that rapid intensification is possible to hurricane strength. JTWC currently forecasts Harold to cross over Vanuatu on April 6 on its track to the southeast.

    On April 3, the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department, Port Vila, issued Tropical Cyclone Warning Number 4. The warning noted that destructive storm-force winds of 125kmph (78mph) with gusts up to 185kmph (115mph) within 75km (47 miles) of its centre are expected to affect Torba and Sanma.

    In 2015, Tropical Cyclone Pam crossed southern Vanuatu and went over the top of the capital Port Vila. 

    According to UNICEF, at least 132,000 people were affected, including 54,000 children.

    Approximately 95 percent of the homes on Tongoa were reportedly destroyed. 

    Total damage in Vanuatu reached 63.2 billion vatus ($600m).

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies