Fears of food shortages in Vanuatu as huge damage revealed

Vanuatu warned Tuesday it faces imminent food shortages as accounts emerged of huge damage to a large outer island, days after one of the fiercest cyclones on record pummelled the Pacific archipelago. Relief agencies say conditions are among the most challenging they have faced, with concerns mounting that disease and a lack of clean water could add to the current toll of 24 confirmed fatalities. Communications were still down to many of Vanuatu’s 80 other islands, most only accessible by boat, and Prime Minister Joe Natuman said it would be at least a week before authorities had a better sense of the destruction.

The impression they got from their initial observations was that the damage is significantly worse than Port Vila.

Tom Perry from CARE Australia

Australian military planes that conducted aerial assessments found significant damage, particularly on Tanna Island, where more than 80 per cent of homes and other buildings appeared to be partially or completely destroyed. Poor weather and communications issues have hampered relief workers efforts to reach the outer islands for days. Most of the islands have no airports and those that do have only small landing strips that are tricky for large supply planes to navigate.