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Storm makes landfall on Vanuatu's Santo

April 6, 2020 5:10 pm
Cyclone Harold, the most powerful storm in the Pacific in at least two years. [Source: Ryry Titus]

Cyclone Harold, the most powerful storm in the Pacific in at least two years, has made landfall on the Vanuatu island of Santo, with winds gusting as high as 235km/h.

Cyclone Harold – a category five, the highest possible – has sat just to the west of Vanuatu’s central islands for much of the past day, gathering significant strength in the past 12 hours.

On Monday afternoon, just after 1pm, local time, it made lanfall on Santo’s southwestern coast, and is forecast to continue on a track that takes it very close to Luganville, the country’s second-largest town with a population of more than 16,000 people.

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Fred Jockley, a managing forecaster at the Vanuatu Meteorological Service, said this storm was the most serious since Cyclone Pam, which destroyed much of the country in 2015, killing few people, but setting livelihoods, infrastructure and the economy back years.

Mr Jockley said Harold was displaying the signs no one wanted to see: it had effectively stalled, moving as slow as two knots, which allows it to suck up moisture from the warm ocean and gain ferocity; it was growing in size, and its force would likely envelop much of Santo and Malekula, Vanuatu’s two largest islands; and its current track had it skirting very close to Luganville, the country’s second-largest city with more than 16,000 people.

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