Pam Is Pacific’s Worst Natural Disaster As Cyclone Damages 42,000 Homes, Displaces 150,000 People In Vanuatu

By @vitthernandez on
Damaged Homes in Vanuatu
(IN PHOTO) Men stand next to buildings in a prison damaged by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, the capital city of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu March 15, 2015. The first aid teams to reach Vanuatu on Sunday encountered widespread devastation and authorities declared a state of emergency after the "monster" cyclone tore through the vulnerable Pacific island nation. With winds of more than 300 kph (185 mph), Cyclone Pam razed homes, smashed boats and washed away roads and bridges as it struck late on Friday and into Saturday. Aid workers described the situation as catastrophic. The count of confirmed deaths was at 10 with 20 people injured. But those numbers were almost certain to rise as rescuers reached the low-lying archipelago's outlying islands. Reuters

It was like Super Typhoon Haiyan all over again, but on Saturday, the wrath of Cyclone Pam was not on the Philippines. Instead its destructive winds and heavy rainfall damaged 42,000 homes and displaced 150,000 people in the small Pacific island of Vanuatu.

Death count has risen to eight people, prompting media to dub the weather disturbance as the worst natural disaster in living memory for the Pacific islanders known for its palm and coconut beachfront resorts.

Of the 42,000 damaged homes, about 15,000 are no longer habitable said Tim Nelson, director of Save the Children. “It was incomprehensible what was bearing down. No one here in living memory has seen anything like this,” ABC quotes Nelson.

Besides destroying homes, the cyclone, with its 300 kph winds, also smashed boats and washed away roads and bridges. About 20 islanders have been injured, reports Reuters.

The Australian Red Cross identified the southern island of Tanna as the worst hit as its 29,000 residents bore the brunt of Pam. Aid groups also identified the main town in the island of Erromango as also badly hit, with at least two residents dead.

Because of the water surges which were as high as 8 metres, 75 percent of homes in the capital city of Port Vila were severely damaged or destroyed.

But the island is attempting to recover as people go back to the market and start cleaning up the debris and havoc caused by the cyclone, observed Tom Perry from CARE Australia, an aid agency.

Due to unconfirmed reports of minor looting of hardware equipment, a 12-hour curfew was imposed in Port Vila from 6 pm to 6 am, reports Oxfam Country Manager Colin Collett van Rooyen.

Red Cross Vanuatu CEO Jacqueline de Gaillarde appealed for food since those stockpiled by residents were washed away with their homes. She added that boats are needed to reach the 80 other islands since airports are flooded, making it impossible for planes to land.

Nelson estimates that it would take years for Vanuatu to fully recover from the catastrophe. He said the main focus of aid organisations would be to restore normalcy to the lives of residents by helping them build homes, providing for their basic needs, including having hospital that could attend to their medical needs.

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