Vanuatu’s weather office warned of destructive storm force winds as Tropical Cyclone Hola made landfall in Vanuatu’s northern islands.
Minor to moderate damage to trees and structures has been reported initially.
The roof blew off a classroom and some houses have collapsed on Vanuatu’s island of Ambrym.
A Red Cross volunteer in the west of Ambrym, Bong Kimmy, said the wind there was very strong and the seas were rough.
“The weather had been fine but changed quite suddenly around midday on Wednesday local time,” he said.
“Most people had heeded the warnings and moved away from the coastline but others did not get the warnings as the cellphone network was damaged,” he said.
But by afternoon, as winds built, more people had started to move to evacuation areas and safer buildings such as churches.
“Several houses were damaged or collapsed on the north side of Ambrym and the roof of a secondary school classroom had blown out already,” Kimmy said.
A Disaster Office red alert warning was put in place for the four provinces of Sanma, Penama, Malampa and Shefa, which cover much of the country.
The Vanuatu Daily Post tweeted: “Normally calm as a pond, central Pentecost island is seeing heavy waves that are blocking a small section of the coastal road.” On Facebook the newspaper posted: “Cyclone Hola is officially a category two. We’re seeing some ugly thunderstorms in Port Vila right now, but so far nothing worse. The eye is passing further to the north than originally anticipated. Worse luck for Malekula, which is bearing the brunt of it right now.”
The third cyclone of the year will make a path to New Zealand after battering Vanuatu, New Zealand’s MetService said.
Early yesterday, Hola was a category two storm but it was strengthening and expected to become category three sometime during the day.