Dozens of people are feared dead after Cyclone Pam pummelled Vanuatu overnight.
There are no official reports of deaths or injuries, but there is an unconfirmed report that 44 people have died in Penama Province, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said.
It said the regions of Maewo, Ambae and Pentecost were most likely to have been hit the hardest, with an estimated 30,800 living in those areas.
The category 5 storm was travelling in the direction of the most populated island of Efate, where more than 65,000 people live, including the capital Port Vila.
“The southern islands (total population 32,540) are also likely to be directly hit,” the agency said.
“The Pacific Humanitarian Team is preparing to support the government-led response to the cyclone, and continues to preposition staff and stocks both in country and within the region.”
â€” Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) March 13, 2015
The UN aid agency said the tropical cyclone had moved westward of its expected track, placing several islands of the Vanuatu archipelago “directly in the path of the very destructive eye region of this cyclone”.
“TC Pam is near peak intensity with winds in the eye region averaging 130 to 140 knots (250 to 270 km/h) with gusts up to 180 knots (340 km/h),” it said in its most recent update.
“This is an extremely destructive cyclone and those in its path will be in great danger. The expectation is that the western edge of the eye will pass over or extremely close to the eastern side of Efate (where the capital Port Vila is located) between 10pm and midnight local time in Vanuatu on 13 March.”
‘Be prepared’ – Civil Defence
Philip Duncan says it’s still a Category Five system this morning, with wind gusts of up to 340 kilometres an hour.
“It is a very serious storm, it’s still at the high end. It is not expected to really weaken a lot today. While it is going to drop from a category five to a four, that’s a little like the temperature dropping from 21 to 19.”
Civil Defence says it’s best to be prepared, just in case the cyclone gets worse on its way to New Zealand.
The system is expected to brush the East Coast region, but areas north of Whangaparaoa could also see some flooding and strong winds from Sunday night.
Auckland Civil Defence Controller Clive Manley says it’s worth keeping up with the forecasts.
“How severe this event will be is still uncertain. We don’t know how widespread it will be. Certainly coastal properties along that northeast part of Auckland will get impacted by the swell and the wind.”
Gisborne’s Civil Defence is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Emergency Manager Richard Steele says more than a dozen agencies are making plans.
“Infrastructure and utility owners are doing a lot of work making sure they’ve got things in place. Emergency services are putting extra resources up the coast in case the State Highway gets closed.”
Richard Steele says the main problem is likely to be coastal erosion.
– NZ Herald/NewstalkZB/WeatherWatch.co.nz
– Photos: NORA; Capital Weather Gang
on 14/03/2015 4:22am
I was wondering (as I live beside the sea in Gisborne) how far inland would the ocean come if we are to get 6-8 metre surges ??
on 14/03/2015 5:22am
Hi there, you’re unlikely to get a surge like that as the eye of the storm is unlikely to track over you. However tides, plus gales, and some storm surge may add another metre or so to the high tide and may cause some flooding and coastal erosion.
on 13/03/2015 10:25pm
The Fiji Met service has tracking Pam as still a Cat 4 when it reaches NZ
is this correct?
on 13/03/2015 11:07pm
Hi Dan – unfortunately they have a bit of a problem with consistency with their final tracking for Pam …around the NZ area they have gone from predicting just a low to a Cat1 through to 4 storm in the past 48 hours!
We think it will be Cat4 or 3 when approaching then around Cat 2 or 1 (if it was still a tropical cyclone) when it passes Gisborne. But it’s hard to pinpoint when the models are all still unsure. Have to go by what is more likely to happen, which is weakening as it moves our way…just a matter of precisely what time that process begins!