Severe Tropical Cyclone Donna has intensified to a category three and while Vanuatu may be lucky to avoid the worse of the wild weather, it remains a very serious situation.

A great deal of uncertainty surrounds the movement of Donna over the next 48 hours, however it is expected to hit further west of Vanuatu than initially thought.

MetService lead Meteorologist Mark Todd said there is however a small chance the cyclone, which may cause winds to gust up to 250km/h according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, will track closer to the island.

"We will have to sit tight to see how it plays out," he said.


WeatherWatch said Donna is expected to turn south overnight and continue tracking southwards, west of the island, over the next three days. Should it continue tracking like that, most of the severe weather will hopefully remain at sea.

Predicted track of cyclone Donna issued by the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre earlier today. Picture / supplied
Predicted track of cyclone Donna issued by the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre earlier today. Picture / supplied

However, an earlier turn to tracking south would make Vanuatu far more vulnerable to damage and severe weather and may put some populated places right in the path of the cyclone.

"Either way, this remains a serious set-up for Vanuatu," said WeatherWatch.

"It's still absolutely vital those in Vanuatu remain ready for severe weather."

Dangerous, damaging seas with wave heights over seven metres are expected to hang around for days, even if the centre of the cyclone tracks further offshore.

Coastal damage could also still be significant in low-lying areas.

"So the further away [the cyclone is] the better," said Todd.

WeatherWatch said as with any tropical cyclone and such small islands to focus on, there is plenty of uncertainty about its exact track, and therefore it is difficult to tell who may be impacted and when.

"As we saw recently with Cyclone Cook storms like this can jog west or east further than expected and, over time, a small jog in one direction can have great consequences down the track."

Meanwhile, aid agencies including the Red Cross have started to arrive or are heading to Vanuatu.

A red alert was activated in Torba province this morning, and a yellow alert for Sanma province.

Locals are being urged to be prepared and to listen to radio broadcasts for regular updates and information.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 116 New Zealanders are registered as being on the island.

An advisory has been issued to them to monitor weather reports and to follow advice from authorities at all times, including evacuation orders, and to seek suitable shelter.

"Visitors and tourists staying in travel accommodation should follow the guidance of hotel or resort management."

New Zealanders who require consular assistance should contact the New Zealand High Commission in Port Vila on +678 22 933 or +678 email: +678 552 2933 (after-hours).

New Zealand remains safe from the tropical cyclone, which is expected to hang around the tropics this weekend and into early next week.

Donna comes after Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu in 2015.

More than a dozen people were killed and crops badly damaged.