Photo © Humans of Vanuatu
Cyclone Pam, a 168mph storm which hit the South Pacific Friday and Saturday (March 13-14th), has been described as a ‘worst case scenario’ for the archipelago of Vanuatu. The cyclone lingered over the region for some 24 hours with the force of a category 5 storm. Vanuatu’s President Baldwin Lonsdale told media that the storm has “wiped out” all recent development and that “everything” will have to be rebuilt, while humanitarian aid is desperately and urgently needed. The low-lying island nation of Kiribati, which has already experienced devastating flooding in recent weeks is also reported to have sustained significant damage.
Thousands are believed to have lost their homes, with eight confirmed so far to have lost their lives. Aid agencies working in Vanuatu face significant challenges in reaching those who have been struck by the cyclone; the archipelago sits 1,100 miles northeast of Brisbane, Australia, and is comprised of 83 islands—around 65 of them inhabited—spread out across a 530 mile stretch.
Power and water have been cut off and many lines of communication are down. This has created problems communicating with islands outside of Efate, and Australia and New Zealand have sent their Air Forces in to survey damage across the archipelago.
In Vanuata’s capital, Port-Vila—which is located on the island of Efate—8-meter swells reportedly hit the seawall. Oxfam Country Director in Port Vila, Colin Collet van Rooyen told the Wall Street Journal that “There are more than 100,000 people likely homeless, every school destroyed, full evacuation centers, damage to health facilities and the morgue.”
The island nation of Kiribati has experienced severe flooding in recent weeks, worsened by the recent storm. A Government spokesperson told Radio New Zealand that “We have reports coming in from three of the southern islands, some have had to move from one side, they’ve been residing on one side of the island and due to the wind and the waves, they had to, all the village had to relocate to the other end.”
Additionally the causeway to the main island has been damaged as well as a maternity ward. Another strong spring tide is expected to bring additional flooding later in the week.
These are some of the organizations working to bring aid to those affected by Cyclone Pam:
All images © Humans of Vanuatu