Destruction on one of many islands in Vanuatu, after Cyclone Harold. Picture: https://twitter.com/sandravanuatu
Destruction on one of many islands in Vanuatu, after Cyclone Harold. Picture: https://twitter.com/sandravanuatu

Disaster brings despair to Mackay islander community

BEING stuck at home during isolation isn’t fun, but spare a thought for those in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu who have recently lost their only shelter during the coronavirus crisis.

Category five Cyclone Harold has left remote islands battered, brought down phone networks and left houses and crops destroyed.

Mirani MP Stephen Andrew is part of a large community of South Sea islander descendants who call the region home.

Mr Andrew has been unable to make contact with extended family in Vanuatu since the cyclone hit.

A satellite image shows cyclone Harold slamming into the pacific island of Vanuatu on Monday. Picture: Supplied
A satellite image shows cyclone Harold slamming into the pacific island of Vanuatu on Monday. Picture: Supplied

“It’s a small place, a lot of people don’t have cyclone-proof housing,” he said.

“Our South Sea islander community is very concerned and worried sick about whether their family and friends are OK.”

After bringing rain, flooding and 230km/h winds to Vanuatu, the mammoth storm was continuing its path to Fiji on Tuesday.

Vanuatu’s disaster office confirmed it would further ease travel restrictions that had been introduced as part of the country’s COVID-19 state of emergency so relief could be delivered to the worst-hit areas.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Vanuatu.

Mirani MP Stephen Andrew. Picture: Daryl Wright
Mirani MP Stephen Andrew. Picture: Daryl Wright

Mr Andrew last heard from one of his friends just before they lost power and has not been able to reach them since.

“They’ve just gone through an election and all of the sudden it’s just been compounded by coronavirus and being smashed by wind and rain,” he said.

Mr Andrew said he hoped to start a local fundraiser for those displaced by the disaster.

“We can pool together as a community and try to help out,” he said.

“Water tanks, roofing iron and fixtures – they all play a really big part in making sure people can take shelter.”