South Sea paradise Vanuatu braces for super cyclone Lola

BANGKOK: The South Sea island nation of Vanuatu is preparing for the arrival of a super cyclone, reported German news agency (dpa).

Tropical Storm Lola has now been classified in the strongest category five and will reach “very destructive wind speeds” of 230 km per hour with gusts of up to 320 km per hour in the next 24 hours, the local Meteorology and Geo Hazards Department (VMGD) announced on Tuesday.

Lola is predicted to reach the islands of Torba, Sanma, Penama, Malampa and Shefa – all north of the main island of Efate with its capital Port Vila – in the next few hours.

Air Vanuatu has cancelled all flights as a precaution. Ships were recalled to ports because of fears of a “tsunami-like storm surge”, according to a Radio New Zealand report.

A red alert has been issued for the affected provinces, which means residents should get to safety immediately. Several dozen people were taken to evacuation centres as a precaution.

The VMGD expects there to be heavy rain with flash floods, especially near the coast. The agency warned of extremely rough seas and huge waves.

The country’s emergency agency website says Vanuatu is affected by cyclones every year between November and April.

“Vanuatu communities have developed a strong resilience to natural hazards through decades of experience in dealing with them.”

Vanuatu, in the South Pacific, consists of about 80 islands and is located some 1,800 km east of Australia. – Bernama