Cyclone Harold's devastation in Vanuatu revealed

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PORT VILA (Australian AP/Pacnews) — The first reports have emerged of the category-five storm's destruction in Vanuatu.

Communication lines have been restored to the hardest-hit regions of Vanuatu on Wednesday, two days after Cyclone Harold made landfall.
The islands of Espiritu Santo, Malo and Pentecost were blasted by torrential rain and winds above 235km/h in the storm, which travelled directly over Luganville, the country's second biggest settlement.
“Thousands of people have lost their homes. There's extensive, extensive damage,” Julian Bluett, a Brisbane-raised Luganville resident, told Australian AP.
“You can go to any quarter of Luganville and you can see at least half of the homes have been destroyed.
“In one case, there's a foundation of the house, all the things are there, and none of the house.”
Bluett, the principal at Rowhani Bahai School in Luganville, said there was a great rush of messages between friends and family, near and far, to establish the safety of their loved ones.
Amid the devastation, there are no reports of loss of life.
Locals and relief agencies will now begin a damage assessment and provision of immediate needs.
Save The Children country director Luke Ebbs, based in Port Vila, said the “scale of damage is immense.”
“Water tanks knocked over, boats blown out of the water, trees stripped of their leaves and lots of roofs blown off,” he said.
“Right now there are very pressing needs for temporary shelter, food, water and basic hygiene items like soap, buckets and water containers. Many families we spoke to have lost almost everything, and they urgently need humanitarian assistance.”
New Zealand has sent a surveillance plane to Vanuatu to help with this task and pledged an initial NZ$500,000 (U.S.$300,000) towards relief.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters said Harold had “caused major damage to homes, public buildings, infrastructure, telecommunications networks and crops.”
After pummeling Vanuatu, Harold weakened to category-four as it trailed just south of Viti Levu on Wednesday, Fiji's biggest island.
All of Fiji's major settlements, including the capital Suva, but particularly west coast settlements of Lautoka and Nadi, were lashed, with the worst weather hitting Kadavu Island.
The storm formed near the Solomon Islands, where 27 people were reportedly thrown overboard and killed when a packed ferry headed off into dicey waters.
Beyond Fiji, Harold's trajectory has it on course to reach Tonga on Thursday.
In Luganville, Bluett is spending his time clearing his school of debris and attempting to secure water supplies.
The Australian said he will not forget the terrifying night in a hurry.
“On Sunday it became pretty clear that we were going to have a direct hit and when it arrived it was four hours of very, very intense storm,” he said.
“Our windows weren't well sealed so we got wet. It was wild and woolly,” he added.

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