Cyclone Judy strengthens to category 3 in Vanuatu with destructive hurricane-force winds

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All Vanuatu government workers have been told to stay home until Tropical Cyclone Judy has left the country.

Tuesday, damaging gale-force winds affected the northern provinces of Torba, Sanma, Penama and Malampa.

The category three cyclone is bearing down on Vanuatu’s northern provinces, moving in a southerly direction.

The Vanuatu Met service in its latest cyclone warning said destructive hurricane-force winds of 150km/h gusting to 200km/h will affect the central and southern islands.

Air Vanuatu cancelled all domestic and international flights Tuesday and today, with flights expected to resume tomorrow.

RNZ Pacific correspondent said banks closed their doors early Tuesday afternoon and sent staff home.

Boarding schools in the capital have sent their students home.

Commercial ships were urged by Port and Marine Departments to find safe anchorage after the met service issued a high seas warning for open coastal waters of Vanuatu.

The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has already identified evacuation centres in Port Vila but for the rest of Efate island and other offshore islands, the office is working closely with the Vanuatu Christian Council of Churches to use church buildings as evacuation centres.

The NDMO’s co-ordinator for evacuation centres has appealed to people throughout the country to respect and take seriously the warnings given by the Meteorological Department.

Port Vila was severely damage by tropical cyclone Pam in 2015 which was a category five cyclone.

Meanwhile, the chiefs and people of Melsisi, in Central Pentecost in Vanuatu, have called on the government to start reconstruction efforts following the damage caused by Cyclone Harold three years ago.

The area administrator Jean Vianey Barang said apart from a tar-sealed road, no other reconstruction has been carried out in the central and southern parts of Pentecost.

He said some school buildings, including dormitories and classrooms, remain without roofs and windows.

The appeal was made during a visit to Melsisi by Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau last week.

RNZ Pacific’s correspondent said Pentecost is a major supplier of kava in both local and export markets, but farmers are still struggling with the impact of Harold.

He said the removal of machinery from the island by the previous government has made the situation worse.

Jean Vianey Barang also said the feeder roads used by kava farmers to transport their produce to the coastal area for shipment to the Port Vila market are no longer in use.

He claimed that the money allocated for this road work was instead used for the upkeep of roads in Port Vila and Luganville.

SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS