Heavy rains cause flash floods in the north

Heavy rainfall and flash flooding in Vanuatu’s Pentecost Island have forced six households to evacuate.

There has also been heavy rain, landslides and flash flooding in some areas in Torba and Penama provinces.

The Malpangpang Area Council in South Pentecost, says heavy rainfall yesterday caused flash flooding in some areas of southeast Pentecost and has forced some families to evacuate their homes.

The Area Secretary from the Malpangpang Area Council, Ken Bebe, says four households from ward 14 in southeast Pentecost and two households from ward 15 had to evacuate their homes.

“They have had to move out of their houses as flood water filled up their homes,” he said.

Mr Bebe says some people have lost their water taro gardens due to flash flooding that washed whole gardens into the sea.

He reported there were landslides in some areas in Emu and Ranwas Village of southeast Pentecost.

But Mr Bebe says there were no casualties.

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department’s climatologist, Kalsuak Gordon, says from the six rainfall recording stations across the country, Sola and Saratamata in Torba and Penama provinces recorded the highest rainfall yesterday.

He says Sola Rainfall Station in Vanualava in Torba Province had recorded 221.6 millimeters of rainfall yesterday and Saratamata on Ambae in Penama Province recorded 186.7 millimeters of rainfall.

Mr Gordon says the 221.6-millimeter rainfall record yesterday in Solar was extraordinary. He says , normally in Solar, the rainfall threshold was 100 millimeters, and once it reaches over that threshold, it can cause flooding in creeks and low-lying areas.

“There are possibilities for more rainfall in the northern parts of Vanuatu. When there is plenty of rain, creeks and rivers overflow and flash flooding can happen in low lying areas,” Mr Gordon said.

“People must take extra care when walking around. Especially children walking to school and crossing rivers or creeks. At this time, kids should be accompanied by adults to school.”

The Area Secretary for Malpangpang Area Council, Ken Bebe, says heavy rainfall in Pentecost has prevented some local children going to school as flash flooding along the roads blocked road access.

Mr Gordon, says the country’s automatic weather stations, are now helping the department’s Climate Division to develop Vanuatu’s early warning systems.

“They will enable us to monitor the amount of rainfall so we can give warnings earlier to communities before anything happens, he said.”

Edgar Howard, VBTC correspondent in Torba Province, was an eyewitness of flash flooding in Sola, Torba Province.

He says but the flooding had not caused anyone to evacuate.

Joblin Vanua, a resident of South Santo, says the area received heavier rainfall yesterday than they did during Cyclone Harold.

Mrs Vanua says rainfall in South Santo caused huge flooding that blocked access to public roads and prevented river crossings.

“In South Santo Area Two, some drivers had to stay overnight on the other side of a river because the river was flooded and vehicles could not cross bridges and roads,” Ms Vanua said.

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department has warned there could be flooding and landslides in some areas in Vanuatu as La Niña climate conditions approach.

The Acting Director of the department, Allan Rarai, says with La Niña and the rainy season starting to develop, Vanuatu will receive heavier rainfall from the month of September to around March next year.

Mr Rarai says Vanuatu will experience the full impact of La Niña in October.

La Niña and El Niño are ocean-atmosphere phenomena that are opposite phases of the ENSO cycle, which is a scientific term that describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the tropical Eastern Central Pacific Ocean.

La Niña, which is a Spanish term for ‘little girl’ involves ‘cooling of the sea surface’, while El Niño or ‘little boy’ involves the ‘warming of the sea surface’.

These changes from normal sea surface temperatures can have large-scale impacts on ocean processes and global weather and climate. During a period of La Niña, the sea surface temperature can be lower than normal by 3 to 5 °C.

El Niño and La Niña episodes usually last nine to 12 months, but some prolonged events may last for years. While their frequency can be quite irregular, El Niño and La Niña events occur on average every two to seven years.

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