Tropical cyclone Harold returned to a Category 5 storm on Thursday, wiping Tonga from the side after leaving a trail of destruction across the South Pacific.
The island kingdom declared a state of emergency late Wednesday, when the storm subsided and warned of destructive winds and massive sea tides.
The police announced early Thursday that power was cut in parts of the country and the howling winds picked up in heavy rain after Harold surprised the meteorologists with their sudden reinforcement.
© PHILIPPE CARILLO
The damage caused by Harold near Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, is shown on April 7. The storm is now moving towards Fiji
The cyclone killed 27 people in the Solomon Islands at the end of last week before heading southeast to hit Vanuatu Category 5 directly and wipe out entire cities in the northern provinces.
There have been no reports of deaths in Vanuatu. Rescue workers said many residents in the most affected areas were able to seek shelter.
Harold weakened slightly to a still impressive category 4 when it started in Fiji on Wednesday, but hopes that the storm would dissipate were dashed when it won back towards Tonga.
“It was difficult to predict,” meteorologist Bill Singh from New Zealand’s Metservice told AFP.
“We knew which route it would take, but initially everyone thought it would only be Cat 3 or 4, but when it went over warm, open water it deepened.”
The storm is expected to blow into the open ocean from Tonga later Thursday, but WeatherWatch.co.nz chief forecaster Philip Duncan said there is no certainty.
Related Slideshow: Extreme Weather Around the World in 2020 (provided by Photo Services)
January to March: brush fire in New South Wales, Australia
The devastating bush fires started in mid-2019 and continued until March, which led to a record rise in temperature and drought across the country. The fire, which lasted 240 days, claimed at least 28 dead, including four firefighters, and 3,000 houses destroyed, according to CNN. On February 13, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service tweeted that all of the fire in the area had been finally contained. According to a BBC report, the total land burned has been reduced to 110,000 square kilometers.
(Picture) On January 31, 2020, wildfire lights up at dusk near Clear Range, Canberra.
A burned car can be seen among the charred trees in Lithgow, New South Wales, on January 11th.
January: Avalanches and floods in Pakistan and Afghanistan
The two countries were hit by harsh weather conditions, avalanches and floods, and more than 130 people were killed within a few days. Much of the Pakistani Baluchistan region remained covered under 152 millimeters of snow, as the country claimed a total of 93 victims. In neighboring Afghanistan, 39 people died as a result of the cold snap. The temperature in the capital Kabul dropped to -15 degrees Celsius. Pakistani-occupied Kashmir was worst hit with 62 deaths, as avalanches caused by heavy snow in the Neelum Valley resulted in roadblocks and school closures. In Kashmir, administered by India, the death toll was at least 12. Many deaths occurred due to roof collapse due to heavy snow.
(Image) The residents remove the rubble from a collapsed house after heavy snowfall, which triggered an avalanche on January 14 in the Neelum Valley in Kashmir, which is administered by Pakistan.
Locals go for a walk on snow-covered streets in Chrar in the Budgam district of Indian-administered Kashmir on January 18.
January to March: mudslides and floods in Brazil
Floods and landslides caused by incessant rainfall in January have destroyed thousands of displaced people and hundreds of homes in the country. A Guardian report cited scientists who attributed the cause of “extreme rainfall” in the country to global warming and growing cities. The worst hit were the states of Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In January, 171 millimeters of rain fell in the Belo Horizonte metropolitan region in Gerais – the highest in 110 years. In Guarujá, a city 40 kilometers from São Paulo, a rainfall of 282 millimeters was recorded in just 12 hours, much more than would have been expected throughout the month. More than 150 died and some are ignored.
(Pic) Aerial view showing rescue workers looking for five victims buried in a landslide in the Jardim Alvorada neighborhood of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, on January 25.
General view of a landslide triggered by heavy rains in Barreira do Joao Guarda on March 4th.
January: Storm Gloria in Spain
With wind speeds of 100 km / h, the storm hit the Balearic Islands, which include popular tourist destinations such as Mallorca and Ibiza. Waves up to seven meters high hit boats that anchored on its banks, blocked roads and caused power outages. People had to vacate their homes when the storm hit Catalonia, Valencia and the southern regions of Murcia. It continued to penetrate the rice fields in the Ebro Delta in Barcelona. It left a trail of destruction and claimed 13 lives in Spain. Gloria has also caused chaos in Pyrénées-Orientales, France.
(Image) On January 21, large waves cross a breakwater at the Port Olympic port in Barcelona, Spain.
Police and security forces walk on an overturned bridge in Malgrat de Mar near Girona on January 22 as Storm Gloria strikes the Spanish east coast.
February: Storm Ciara in the UK
Ciara hit all of Great Britain, with England and North Wales bearing most of the brunt. The Honister Pass in Cumbria recorded 179.8 millimeters of rain over the weekend, and local flooding occurred in several other parts. The storm also affected
Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic with losses ranging from USD 1.8 billion (EUR 1.1 billion) to USD 1.9 billion (EUR 1.8 billion) .
(Image) On February 10, waves crashed on rocks and dwarf houses in Sennen Cove near Land’s End in Cornwall, England.
Waves crashed on the beach next to Brighton Pier, while strong winds continued after Storm Ciara on February 11 in Brighton, England.
February: Storm Dennis in the UK
Known as the “bomb cyclone”, Dennis was one of the worst winter floods affecting regions from the Scottish highlands to the Cornish coast, and parts of Wales and Northern Ireland. The waters of the Calder River in Mytholmroyd, England, rose to 2.8 meters (9.1 feet) overnight when the storm triggered nearly 600 flood warnings – a record number – leaving several submerged homes. The mead recorded the highest wind at 146 km / h in Aberdaron, Wales, and 156.2 millimeters of rain at the Crai Reservoir in South Wales over 48 hours, compared to the February average of 111.1 km / h millimeters). The situation worsened due to the effects of storm Ciara, which had passed through the region a few days earlier.
(Pic) An aerial view of the Welsh village of Crickhowell, which was cut off when the River Usk blew up on February 16 at the Crickhowell Bridge near the Bridge End Inn.
Rescue workers help two people leave their flooded home after the River Wye blew up after Storm Dennis on February 17th in Hereford, England.
February: storm in the southeastern United States
The powerful storm system has triggered at least a dozen tornadoes in several states, including Mississippi, North and South Carolina and Alabama. Heavy rains from the storms triggered the most severe flash flood warnings. Ohio saw nearly 101 millimeters of snow overnight, and the states of Tennessee and Maine struggled with snowy conditions. At least five have been killed and hundreds of thousands have suffered power crimes.
(Pictured) A soccer complex in northeast Jackson, Mississippi, USA, is underwater on February 14.
A man holds a boat when he and his neighbor make another trip through the Pearl River-flooded neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi, USA, on February 16.
March: Storm Jorge in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
The winter storm that developed in the mid-Atlantic led to flight diversions as the winds reached up to 92 km / h, as originally recorded in Mace Head, Ireland. Almost 15,000 residents suffered blackouts. The most affected areas with blocked roads and fallen trees in the Republic of Ireland included North County Clare, North Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Wexford, Kildare, Longford and Meath.
(Image) Flooded lots in East Cowick, Yorkshire after the effects of Storm Jorge on the weekend of March 3rd.
A man paddles past turnstiles as he canoes on the flooded racecourse to Storm Jorge on March 1st in Worcester, England.
“It is almost outrageous to see a cyclone move south of the equator, weaken and then suddenly return to Cat 5 that far south,” he said.
The Red Cross said that damage investigations were still ongoing in Fiji and Vanuatu, where communication to remote islands was interrupted for days.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has made disaster relief difficult, and Vanuatu is reluctant to open its international borders because it wants to remain one of the few countries without confirmed cases of the virus.
Fiji has 15 cases, and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the virus and cyclone meant that “our
economy and our people were hit twice to start the year.”
“This storm must not interfere with our efforts to contain the corona virus, so that we do not risk damage that is far more painful than the effects of a cyclone,” he said.