Surviving Tropical Cyclone Harold

by Eleanor Knight 22nd June 2021

On 6th April 2020, category 5 Tropical Cyclone Harold made landfall in Vanuatu, devastating families’ livelihoods and robbing people of their homes.

“I have never seen a cyclone as strong as Cyclone Harold. I thought we were all going to die”, recalled Roslyn, who lives in Bay Barrier, Vanuatu, with her husband and youngest of two children.

Like so many others across the bay, Roslyn and her family’s lives were forever changed after the cyclone struck.

The night before, Roslyn and her family began to prepare for its arrival. “When we heard that the cyclone was coming, I told the families in the community to begin preparing; we put rocks on the top of houses, got torches ready, whatever we thought would protect us.”

Roslyn realised early on that her house was no longer safe to take shelter in, so instead, she sought sanctuary at another local house along with others from the community.

“I knew I had to abandon my home in order to stay safe – the winds were already really strong, and it hadn’t even hit us yet.”

Along with keeping her family safe, Roslyn made sure the rest of the community had a place to take cover. The night before Cyclone Harold hit, she moved the older generation to the nakamal – the community meeting house. “During the night, the cyclone destroyed the nakamal, but thankfully, the people inside managed to escape just before. They moved to the house I was staying in, but there was so many of us inside by this point that we could barely shut the door.”

As the cyclone intensified, Roslyn and her family soon realised that they would be unable to escape the fallout from the cyclone. “When the cyclone eventually arrived, I was so afraid, it was the first time I felt a cyclone as strong as this.”

The house that Roslyn and her family had sought respite in did not avoid the damage caused by the cyclone. “When we came outside in the early hours, we looked at all the houses laying on the ground and we just cried. Everything was damaged,” Roslyn said.

“All the tin had fallen down in the night, so we heard all the noise outside, we just listened and then we started to think that if this house was to fall down everyone would be dead inside.”

Roslyn’s own home did not escape damage done by the cyclone, and with their garden also in ruins, their main source of income had also been destroyed.

“The tin roof came off our house, and now we have to save up money to get it fixed. Our main source of income is kava, which we sell, but our garden was destroyed from the cyclone and there is no more kava. It’s all rotten. We’ve tried hard to replant it, but because the cyclone damaged all the roots, it’ll take years before we’re able to return to the amount of kava we had before Cyclone Harold.”

However, Roslyn was grateful for the items she received from ShelterBox that allowed her to begin rebuilding her home. “Thankfully, we received support from ShelterBox since the fallout of the cyclone, and we received useful items such as a kitchen kit, hygiene kits and tool kits that we can use to rebuild our houses. I also helped them ensure that the items were shared across the community.”

“The most useful item I received was the tool kits – five families were able to share one tool kit, which was amazing. We’ve all used the kit to help mend our houses.”

The future is still uncertain for Roslyn and her family. “I worry about my people and what the future holds. We no longer feel safe here.”

ShelterBox will continue to help families like Roslyn’s rebuild their lives after major disaster — you can help us by making a donation or sharing this post on your Facebook.

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