The Red Cross has told Newshub the early information coming out of remote Vanuatu communities is Tropical Cyclone Lola is worse than Cyclone Harold in 2020, which caused widespread destruction.
Lola has caused extensive damage to houses, schools and plantations in Vanuatu’s northern provinces of Torba and Penama – where power and communications networks remain down.
Images of Lola’s destruction have started to trickle out from remote islands that have been cut off by the powerful cyclone.
“There has been extensive damage to houses, also damage to infrastructure, fallen trees on roads, debris everywhere and also damage to plantations as well,” Red Cross’ Soneel Ram said.
Vanuatu’s northern provinces were hit hard by the Category 4 storm, which brought wind gusts of more than 160 km/h.
Ranwadi School on Pentecost Island lost numerous roofs.
Lola is the third cyclone to hit Vanuatu this year, after Category 4 cyclones Judy and Kevin struck within days of each other in February and March.
“People are just picking up the pieces 7 months ago… the scale of this operation, to get people on their feet again will be almost double,” Ram said.
The Red Cross told Newshub it’s waiting for connectivity to resume to fully assess the damage.
“We’re looking at trees falling into homes completely damaging them, their roofs, also the school roofs have been completely blown away so that’s the kind of damage we are looking at, and some totally flattened,” said Ram.
Penama and Torba have been cut off for almost 12 hours.
“The worry is on the extent of the damage and how fast we can establish contact,” Ram stressed. “How fast we can mobilise resources to the affected communities.”
As the storm moves south and weakens, the focus is turning to getting clean water, shelter and supplies to affected communities.