23 Feb 2011

Devastating damage to some crops in Vanuatu from Cyclone Atu

11:27 am on 23 February 2011

Vanuatu's Mobile Police Force is helping people return to their homes on the island of Efate to assess any damage from Cyclone Atu.

The force commander Aru Maralau says 400 people had to be evacuated as the cyclone passed near Efate on its way south.

He says Efate seems to have been spared any major damage to key infrastructure and buildings, with no power cuts or disruptions to communications.

"The wind blew down banana trees and debris. But nothing of substance was damaged. We're just relocating people whom we had evacuated in the last days."

But the owner of a guesthouse on the island of Tanna has described Cyclone Atu's damage to food crops there as devastating.

Talapua Guesthouse's Johnny Tavo says he's now worried about food shortages as a result of the category four gusts.

On Tanna, I think the people will run out of food because all the crops like banana and coconut trees, all the fruits were blown off.

Johnny Tavo says it was fortunate his accomodation wasn't damaged, but other houses nearby weren't so lucky with many homes losing roofs.

He says disaster authorities need to send some emergency supplies as soon as they can, such as medicines and tents.

Vanutau's disaster management office says it is waiting on reports from Tanna and Aneityum Islands.

The Fiji Meterological Service says Cyclone Atu is weakening in strength as it heads in a south south easterly direction.

Senior forecaster, Amit Singh says the cyclone is currently 280 kilometres north west of Matthew Island and is expected to move between Raoul Island and New Zealand.

Amit Singh says a hurricane warning, storm warning and gale warning remain in place for ships in the area.

It is a Category Four Cyclone now but we expect it to gradually weaken and in the next twelve hours become a category three. It's mostly over the ocean where the gale and storm force wind is.