Grim aftermath: A child walks through the ruins of his family home with his father Phillip, on March 16 in Port Vila and, below, more scenes of the devastation in Vanuatu. Photo: Dave Hunt/Getty ImagesThe scale of the destruction wrought by Cyclone Pam on Vanuatu’s 65 islands is becoming apparent as news filters out of the tiny Pacific nation.
Up to 70 per cent of the nation’s 69,000 households were damaged by the category-5 cyclone, with 100,000 of the country’s half-a-million people estimated to be homeless, and every single school thought to have been destroyed. The death toll stands at 24 and is rising.
It is a level of emergency almost unfathomable in Australia, and Vanuata’s president, Baldwin Londsdale, fears the numbers could worsen as contact is made with the nation’s outer islands.
“The humanitarian need is immediate, we need it right now,” he said. Starvation fears after crops wiped out
Grave fears are held for the southern island of Tanna, home to popular Australian tourist destination, the Evergreen Resort. Early reports from UN aerial surveys suggest that the 320 kilometre per hour winds have destroyed up to 70 per cent of the buildings on the island, including the resort.
The 29,000 inhabitants of Tanna took the full force of the storm and authorities are struggling to make contact, with runways damaged and communication systems down. According to reports from pilots there is only one known doctor available to treat the injuries.
All of the island’s crops were destroyed, and there are fears the population could starve, a Unicef spokesperson told The Independent.
‘Much more difficult than Haiyan’
Disaster zone veterans like Tom Skirrow from Save the Children said the relief effort was a logistical challenge greater than that posed by Typhoon Haiyan which took more than 7350 lives in the Philippines in 2013.
“I was present for the Haiyan response and I would 100 per cent tell you that this is a much more difficult logistical problem,” he said.
“The numbers are smaller but the percentage of the population that’s been affected is much bigger.” 85 per cent of homes damaged in Port Vila
The nation’s capital, Port Vila, has had 85 per cent of its homes damaged, and its population of more than 44,000 is desperate for resources, according to aid organisation CARE.
A prime ministerial spokesman, Benjamin Shing, said there may be enough food for a few more days and then people would be dependent on aid to survive.
The full impact of the cyclone is only going to become more apparent in the coming days as authorities make contact with remote islands and provinces. Australia providing $5m in relief
Australia has committed an initial $5 million in aid to non-governmental organisations working on the islands.
The foreign minister, Julie Bishop said that Australia will also be deploying humanitarian supplies to provide support for up to 5000 people in the form of water, sanitation and shelter.
“We will be sending military transport planes, and deployment personnel, medical, humanitarian, consular, natural disaster experts and of course supplies,” she said.
How you can help
The following charities have launched appeals to help those in Vanuatu affected by Cylone Pam:
UNICEF – Cyclone Pam Appeal
Save the Children – Cyclone Pam Emergency Response
CARE – Help CARE provide emergency relief in Vanuatu
World Animal Protection – Cyclone Pam animal relief fund
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