An aerial view of the damage caused by Cyclone Lola at Ranwadi School on Pentecost Island.
© STEPH BULEAn aerial view of the damage caused by Cyclone Lola at Ranwadi School on Pentecost Island.
Damage from Tropical Cyclone Lola, the third category 4 storm to hit Vanuatu this year, will be a major blow to the economy, the government and business community warned on Wednesday.

In late February and early March, cyclones Judy and Kevin caused widespread damage, plunging parts of the Pacific island nation into a state of emergency.

Vanuatu's government estimated the damage from both super storms at just under six billion vatu (NZ$86m).

"The country was just getting back on its feet after the earlier twin cyclones, and now with Lola, we expect the damage to be quite extensive and destructive because of its strength," Disaster Management Minister Ralph Regenvanu said.

Located 2940km north of New Zealand, Vanuatu has a population of 320,000 people, according to its Census 2021.

Cyclone Lola, named by Fiji's Meteorological Service, is not expected to come anywhere near Aotearoa, MetService NZ said.

But New Zealand "stands ready to assist our Vanuatu whānau", the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Wednesday.

Mfat has activated the Interagency Planning Group to consider any requests for assistance from the government of Vanuatu, a spokesperson said.

Vanuatu's Business Resilience Council said Lola had barrelled through the country's northern islands of Pentecost, Malekula, and surrounding areas.

The council said agriculture would be impacted heavily, including the tourism-reliant economy that had already been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We've had political instability in the country, and then the two cyclones back earlier in March of this year, then this Lola one, and economically we weren't doing well coming out of the pandemic."

Reports are emerging of extensive damage in Vanuatu's north, where Cyclone Lola first made landfall on Tuesday.

Regenvanu said due to communications outages, the full scale of the destruction was unknown.

Aore Island Resort in Luganville said their guests were safe, but the hotel had suffered some damage overnight.

One guest, who did not want to be named, told Stuff on Wednesday night that she and her two children had hunkered down in their two-bedroom unit for more than six hours.

"We only came out of the room when we couldn't hear the winds or any flying debris outside."

The Vanuatu Red Cross said it has been providing immediate assistance to over 300 people currently sheltered in evacuation centres with blankets, hygiene kits for washing and cleaning and solar lanterns.