June 8, 2023 6:41 pm

Vanuatu: Pacific nation reels from twin cyclones and earthquakes

The Pacific nation of Vanuatu has declared a state of emergency as it reels from two earthquakes and two cyclones in as many days.

The 6.5 and 5.4 magnitude quakes struck on Friday, just a day after Cyclone Judy swept through the islands.

The category four storm caused damage and flooding across the country. No casualties have been reported yet.

Locals are now bracing for another major tropical storm- Cyclone Kevin is set to make landfall on Friday.

Hundreds of people fled to evacuation centres in Port Vila ahead of the storm, which is forecast to grow to a category four cyclone with 130km/h (81mph) winds by the time it reaches the capital on Friday night.

“We are a resilient people. We will get through this,” Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau told broadcaster RNZ Pacific on Friday.

Aid workers have described the situation as unprecedented.

“It’s crazy, Vanuatu is used to natural disasters, but I think this is the first time it has had two cyclones back to back,” said UNICEF’s Eric Durpaire, according to AFP news agency.

On Wednesday, Cyclone Judy tore off roofs, flooded roads and uprooted trees after it cut a north to south path through the islands. Winds peaked at 200km/h (124mph).

The severe weather battling the island nation comes as Vanuatu’s UN mission on Thursday secured a historic motion to ask the International Court of Justice to define what legal responsibility countries have for the changing climate and its impacts.

Vanuatu said securing the support of 105 other nations – including the UK, Canada and Australia- to co-sponsor the motion had been a “herculean diplomatic effort”. China and the US – two of the world’s biggest carbon emitters – did not sign on.

Pacific countries like Vanuatu have been at the forefront of legal climate change battles in recent years as rising sea levels, ocean acidification and the increased frequency and severity of natural disasters have been felt acutely across the region.

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