Australia leaps to aid Vanuatu after twin cyclones

A state of emergency has been declared in Vanuatu as category four Cyclone Kevin brings gale-force winds and torrential rain to the Pacific nation battling its second major cyclone in a week.

Australia on Friday said it would send a 12-person assessment team to Vanuatu along with emergency supplies such as shelters and water purification equipment.

The Royal Australian Air Force will also help with aerial damage assessments.

“The Australian Defence Force as a part of the whole-of-government effort is co-ordinating closely with the Pacific family to provide the best support possible to the Ni-Vanuatu people,” Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said on Friday.

Spread across 13 principal islands in the south-western Pacific, Vanuatu has already been battered by Cyclone Judy, which hit the capital Port Vila on Wednesday, cutting power and forcing some residents to evacuate.

The government declared the state of emergency on Friday and Prime Minister Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau said officials were working to assess the damage, according to Radio New Zealand.

Cyclone Kevin passed over Port Vila late on Friday and moved across the southern island province of Tafea on Saturday morning, bringing wind gusts in excess of 230km/h.

A red alert is in effect for Tafea province, home to some 30,000 people, according to the National Disaster Management Office.

Winds are expected to weaken in the next six to 12 hours as Cyclone Kevin continues moving southeast, away from Vanuatu.

UNICEF Pacific is shipping emergency supplies to Vanuatu from Fiji to support disaster relief.

-with AAP

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