Schools closed, flights cancelled as Donna approaches New Caledonia

170509-Cyclone-Donna-1NEW Caledonia’s Loyalty Islands are bracing for the arrival of Cyclone Donna late this afternoon.

The category four system is approaching New Caledonia with wind gusts of about 200 km/h.

A level two alert has been in force for Ouvea and Lifou as well as coastal areas of the main island, which means that people have to be inside their homes or in shelters.

The communities threatened by Cyclone Donna include Hienghene, Poindimie and Canala where the authorities have shut down the water supply to protect it from storm contamination.

The curfew declared last night has meanwhile been lifted on the western side of the main island as the storm system is heading to the Loyalty Islands.

The cyclone is forecast to pass between Mare and the southern tip of the main island while it is continuing to weaken.

The south of the main island as well as the Isle of Pines are on alert level one, which means residents are advised to take all the standard precautions.

Businesses and schools are closed while bus services have been suspended.

Earlier the cyclone swept over northern Vanuatu, damaging homes, crops and a cell phone tower.

The storm hit Torba, Malampa and Penama provinces as a category four, damaging homes and crops.

Forecaster at the Vanuatu Met Office Jerry Timothy said the central islands were fortunate the system has stayed out at sea.

“Sanma Province and Malampa province they’ve experienced a little bit of destructive gale force winds but at this stage it is far west of Port Vila,” Timothy said.

“Nothing is happening here, the night is very calm.”

UNICEF spokesperson Lachlan Forsyth said there were reports of damage to water and sanitation infrastructure.

He said UNICEF was in touch with people in evacuation centres but some people had taken shelter in other places.

“In some of the northern islands some of the people have taken shelter in the evacuation centres. There are around 170-180 people sheltering in a cave, otherwise they’re sheltering in things like police stations, in schools, or even some of the sturdier buildings on those islands.”

Vanuatu’s Northern District Hospital has prepared more beds for people who may have been injured during the cyclone.