Cyclone Donna: Homes, buildings damaged in Vanuatu

Damage from Cyclone Donna in Torba, Vanuatu
Damage from Cyclone Donna in Torba, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Red Cross / Twitter)

First light is revealing the extent of damage to Vanuatu's outlying islands, as Cyclone Donna moves across the country's northwest.

Winds reaching more than 200km/h are striking the province of Torba, with homes and other buildings damaged.

The potentially-devastating cyclone has snaked just north of Vanuatu to lie north-west of the island nation on Saturday, WeatherWatch.co.nz says.

"Donna is still moving in a wavy fashion (like a fast spinning top with a bit of a wobble) but overnight the Severe Tropical Cyclone started its slow turn towards the south," the forecaster website says.

Noumea in New Caledonia now looks exposed to a more direct hit from Cyclone Donna, and it's not going to hit New Zealand as a storm, WeatherWatch.co.nz says.

Vanuatu Red Cross spokesperson Dickenson Tevi says there's particular concern for the more isolated islands.

"The cyclone has been hovering there for the last couple of days. There's no question about that, the damage is there. So people are taking shelter in classrooms - that's the main evacuation centre. Schools are closed."

He says a few buildings have been blown over on Vanua Levu.

"The Torres group of islands further north could not get any communications - all the communications have been down."

A government briefing is set to get underway on Saturday morning.

Donna is now tracking westwards towards New Caledonia and could make landfall by Monday.

The last major tropical storm to hit Vanuatu was Cyclone Pam, which struck in March 2015. The Category 5 storm caused extensive damage. About 70 percent of the population were affected and 66,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, Red Cross says.

Red Cross says funding donations helped them assist about 200,000 people affected by Cyclone Pam across Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

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