Posted by : Posted on : 03-Apr-2020

Solomon Islands:   Tropical Cyclone Harold the reported cause of a passenger ferry incident with dozens of passengers feared missing.

On Thursday night the Solomon Islands weather office issued a tropical cyclone warning for all nine provinces as Tropical Cyclone Harold was then approaching and lay off the southeast coast of Rendova Island in the Western Province.

At the time of the initial weather warninggale force winds were being experienced up to 47 knots with maximum gust of 50 -55 knots over Western, Guadalcanal, Central, South Malaita, Makira and Rennell Bellona provinces.

Cyclone Harold was rated as a Category one cyclone and gaining strength.

Overnight and today, Friday, Solomon Islands coastal regions suffered a heavy battering and there has been heavy rain, extensive flooding, including in parts of Honiara, trees flattened and some bridges destroyed.  There have also been power outages in the capital.

In the latest development, Radio New Zealand has reported dozens of people are feared missing from a passenger ferry that had been travelling from Honiara to West Are Are in Malaita Province.

According to the Radio New Zealand news report, the Solomon Islands Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre said it only received word of the stricken ship's ordeal late this morning (Friday) and its officers were scrambling to launch a rescue operation.

According to the centre the vessel encountered very rough seas and strong winds whipped up by Cyclone Harold between 2am and 3am this morning - a number of passengers were washed overboard.

An official headcount is still being conducted but it is feared as many as 60 people could be missing.

A police patrol boat has been dispatched to the area today to assist with any rescue efforts.

Communities in North West Guadalcanal have called on their Member of Parliament (MP) and responsible ministry to fix the Tomba bridge that has been damaged by heavy rain.

The bridge was destroyed by the heavy rain on Wednesday the 1st of April.

The communities who normally use the Tomba bridge to travel to Honiara to sell their produces are affected and are calling for support.

Meanwhile the Solomon Islands Meteorology Service has advised that all provinces will experience heavy rain and thunderstorms as TC Harold passes through.

The weather office said the cyclone is moving east southeast at 14km/ph. and is expected to intensify to category 2 strength later today.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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