Aid arrives to assist Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam ‘wiped out’ development

Aid agencies Monday described conditions in cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu as among the most challenging they have ever faced, as the Pacific nation’s president blamed climate change for worsening the devastation. Relief flights have begun arriving in the battered capital Port Vila after Super Tropical Cyclone Pam tore through on Friday night packing wind gusts of up to 320 kilometres an hour. But workers on the ground said there was no way to distribute desperately needed supplies across the archipelago’s 80 islands, warning it would take days to reach remote villages flattened by the monster storm. Save the Children’s Vanuatu director Tom Skirrow told AFP the logistical challenges were even worse than Super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November 2013, killing more than 7,350 people and ravaging an area a big as Portugal. The official death toll in Port Vila stands at six with more than 30 injured, although experts believe this is a likely fraction of the fatalities caused by the storm.

I was present for the Haiyan response and I would 100 per cent tell you that this is a much more difficult logistical problem. The numbers are smaller but the percentage of the population that’s been affected is much bigger.

Save the Children’s Vanuatu director Tom Skirrow

CARE International spokesman Tom Perry said flying into the capital, where up to 90 percent of homes have been damaged, was “startling”. Skirrow said 15,000 people were homeless in Port Vila alone and flights over remote islands had confirmed widespread destruction elsewhere in the impoverished nation of 270,000. The UN had unconfirmed reports that the cyclone had killed 44 people in one province alone. Two Australian airforce planes landed with food, shelter and medicine while a New Zealand military aircraft also arrived loaded with eight tonnes of tarpaulins, water containers, chainsaw packs and generators. New Zealand also flew supplies to the Pacific island of Tuvalu, where Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said 45 per cent of the 11,000 population had been displaced. Other islands, including the Solomon Islands and Kiribati were both battered by the storm, although not to the extent of their neighbour.

It’s been flattened, all that green is basically horizontal, trees are just kind of standing like broken toothpicks, it’s quite startling… it’s hard to find a home that hasn’t been hit.

CARE International spokesman Tom Perry