Cyclone Hola is on track for New Zealand and could directly hit the North Island early next week - "if we are unlucky", say weather forecasters.
Vanuatu is this morning being whipped by gale-force winds as Hola brushes past the nation. Some models predict it could hit the North Island early next week.
The category 4 storm was last night about 315km west of Efate, the small island home to Vanuatu's capital city Port Vila, according to the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department.
Winds close to the centre of the storm were estimated to be about 165km/h while damaging gale force winds were expected to hit the bottom half of the island nation - the Shefa and Tafea provinces - overnight and tomorrow.
#Cyclone #HOLA looks less organized in recent imagery. Eye no longer visible, less symmetry, etc. Could be temporary fluctuation. Folks on Loyalty Islands in #NewCaledonia should be ready for powerful cyclone by tomorrow evening. pic.twitter.com/is6y9Hsl49— Josh Morgerman (@iCyclone) March 8, 2018
The seas would remain very rough with heavy to phenomenal swells over the Shefa province, heavy rainfalls, thunderstorm and flash flooding over low lying areas.
Hola had been moving slowly over Vanuatu during the past two days, and reports were that gale-force winds were collapsing some houses.
The roof of a classroom was blown off and some houses collapsed on Ambrym as the cyclone arrived, it was reported.
The storm was moving in a south southwest direction and would head closer to New Caledonia over the next six hours although models showed it turning more to the east tomorrow morning.
The change in direction would mean both the main island of New Caledonia and Vanuatu were expected to avoid a direct hit by Hola although it looked likely to pass directly over the Loyalty Islands tomorrow evening.
The Fiji Metservice expected the storm could increase to a category 5 tomorrow.