More than 400 people in Vanuatu remain in evacuation centers as Cyclone Kevin makes landfall in the Pacific Island nation just two days after it was hit by a massive cyclone, which triggered an earthquake.
The Fiji Meteorology Service said that tropical cyclone Kevin arrived in Vanuatu on Friday, bringing torrential rain and wind gusts up to 230 kilometers (143 miles) per hour.
The cyclone intensified to a category 5 on Saturday over open waters to the southeast of Vanuatu, with adverse weather conditions expected to affect the Fiji Group, according to the meteorological agency.
“It lies to the far west of Fiji and is gradually moving southeast. Severe [tropical cyclone] Kevin is expected to track to the south of the Group tonight and tomorrow while remaining over open waters,” the agency said.
Severe Tropical cyclone #Kevin is hitting Pacific island #Vanuatu, which was also shaken by an earthquake today and impacted by cyclone #Judy earlier this week. Destructive winds and heavy rains, says WMO regional centre @FJMETservice
Image @CopernicusEU #Sentinel2 of 2 March pic.twitter.com/qzklDQfFnP
— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) March 3, 2023
It comes just two days after category 4 Cyclone Judy hit the Pacific Island nation. The back-to-back cyclones triggered a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Vanuatu on Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The government declared a state of emergency on Friday and urged those whose homes had been damaged to stay in evacuation centers.
“People who have lost their houses and belongings were advised to stay in the evacuation centers until it is safe for them to return,” Shefa provincial government disaster officer Eddy Maliliu told reporters.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Vanuatu are estimated to be affected by the two massive cyclones that slammed across the island nation within 24 hours, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
IFRC said that access to affected communities was hampered as most roads have been damaged, and fallen power lines have also caused power outages, making communication to remote communities difficult.
“The impact of both these cyclones will be felt for a long time as people slowly start to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives. The response and recovery efforts will be huge,” Vanuatu Red Cross secretary-general Dickinson Tevi said in a statement.
Australia on Friday said it would send a 12-person assessment team to Vanuatu along with emergency supplies like shelters and water purification equipment.
The Royal Australian Air Force will also help with aerial damage assessments.
“The Australian Defence Force as a part of the whole-of-government effort is coordinating closely with the Pacific family to provide the best support possible to the Ni-Vanuatu people,” Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said on Friday.
UNICEF Pacific said it was closely monitoring the situation and will be working with the Vanuatu government and partners to respond to the urgent needs of families affected. The U.N. agency said it will ship emergency supplies to Vanuatu from Fiji to support disaster relief.
“We are deeply concerned by the impact of two devastating cyclones on vulnerable children and families in Vanuatu,” UNICEF Pacific said on Twitter.
Reuters contributed to this report.