From 3-7 April 2020, Tropical Cyclone Harold tore a path across the Pacific – starting in Solomon Islands before ripping through northern Vanuatu as a category 5 with winds of around 230 kmph, heavy rains and storm surges, and heading on to Fiji and Tonga. Red Cross teams in all four countries moved straight into action, helping communities prepare and evacuate, then distributing essential relief supplies to those most heavily impacted, all while under the shadow of COVID-19.

Cyclone Harold hit Fiji as a category 4 storm, destroying and damaging homes in some areas. Red Cross teams Alumeci Doughty, a Red Cross volunteer from Ba, was part of one of the teams helping families evacuating their homes in Nasolo, Ba, alongside their Turaga ni Koro, Mosese Volavola. Credit: Fiji Red Cross

Once the storm had passed and the extent of the damage in Fiji and Vanuatu started to become apparent, Red Cross staff and volunteers began their assessments to find out what people needed most, including Bibiana Koroi, Ba Branch volunteer. Credit: Fiji Red Cross

Throughout May and June, Red Cross teams distributed essential relief items to remote communities in Fiji and Vanuatu that had lost homes, possessions, crops and livelihoods. Amenio Nabureitau, a Red Cross volunteer from Sigatoka, was part of a team distributing relief supplies for affected families in Ekubu and Bouwaqa Village in Vatulele Island. Credit:Watersports Fiji.

 

Teams of staff and volunteers in Vanuatu travelled to the most impacted communities including Pentecost – where around 95 per cent of homes were damaged or destroyed – with more than 30,000 essential relief items. In Banban area, volunteers distributed hygiene kits, tarpaulins, mother and infant kits and drinking water. Credit: Vanuatu Red Cross.

While the response was taking place, it was vital that response teams followed COVID-19 protection and hygiene behaviours, as well as continuing to promote these same measures to communities. The Red Cross Emergency Response Team had already been trained and briefed before heading out into communities. Credit: Vanuatu Red Cross.

When a team from Vanuatu Red Cross in Penama visited Lebutsudem village in Central Pentecost they met Patricia Talsis, who received a family kit:

“I lost everything in my house. All my belongings were blown away by the cyclone. I was in tears in the morning when I saw my house destroyed. No roofs… nothing left… all my kitchen utensils that I just bought in Santo… gone!

“But thank you so much for bringing us aid relief supplies; it gives me hope that you are with us, as we were wondering how we are going to rebuild our normal life. It is hard. So many memories of Tropical Cyclone Harold. Thank you again.”

Experience tells us that recovery from such an event is a long process and Red Cross will be there every step of the way.