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Powerful Cyclone Hits Vanuatu, Nation Already Under Coronavirus Emergency

Cyclone Harold brings strong winds in Luganville, Vanuatu April 6, 2020, in this still image obtained from a social media video. Courtesy of Adra Vanuatu/Social Media via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY…

The slow-moving storm is expected to pass north of the capital of Port Vila early Tuesday.

A powerful cyclone made landfall Monday in Vanuatu, a Pacific island nation that had already declared a state of emergency over fears of the coronavirus.

Cyclone Harold, which was upgraded to a powerful Category 5, hit the island nation Monday morning on the remote east coast with winds of up to 215 kilometers (133 miles) per hour. The slow-moving storm is expected to pass north of the capital of Port Vila early Tuesday.

Officials say there have been no reports of injuries but that many buildings are reported damaged.

Vanuatu has no cases of the coronavirus, however the government has declared a state of emergency and closed its international borders to try to keep out the pandemic.

Health officials worry the cyclone might require the country to request international relief, which raises the risk of the virus being imported into the island. The last time a Category 5 storm hit the country was in 2015 when Cyclone Pam struck, requiring an international operation to help the island nation to recover.

New Zealand has said its military is ready to help Vanuatu if needed.

Vanuatu officials have temporarily suspended bans on public meetings, put in place because of concerns of the coronavirus, so people can gather in evacuation shelters.

Cyclone Harold has already caused destruction when it passed over the Soloman Islands, where 27 people were washed off a ferry in strong winds. Solomon Islands police said Sunday they recovered five bodies and are continuing to search for the missing people.