As the extent of the damage in Vanuatu begins to emerge, aid groups are warning that the Pacific island nation is facing a major humanitarian crisis in the wake of cyclone Pam.
Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop committed $5 million in initial funding following a request from government of Vanuatu. The money will go to assis non-government organisations, such as the Red Cross and United Nations partners.
Australia has also deployed humanitarian supplies assist up to 5,000 people, including water and sanitation and shelter kits; a medical team and an urban search and rescue assessment team and DFAT crisis response team, comprising eight officials to boost consular support.
The Australian and New Zealand both sent C17 and C130 Hercules aircraft to Vanuatu to help with emergency supplies. Some have already landed at the damaged airport.
— RNZAF (@NZAirForce) March 14, 2015
Oxfam’s Port Vila director, Colin Collet van Rooyen, says up to 90% of housing in Vanuatu’s capital has been seriously damaged, and there was still no information from the vulnerable outer islands where 33,000 people live. Nearly all schools were damaged and school supplies destroyed.
“This is likely to be one of the worst disasters ever seen in the Pacific,” he said. “Entire communities have been blown away.”
Eight death have been confirmed, but the number is expected to climb, with another 20 people injured.
Shelter, clean water and sanitation are priorities, with UNICEF predicting that around 132,000 of the Pacific Island nation’s 260,000 residents will need shelter over at least the next four to six weeks.
CARE Australia’s Tom Perry, who just arrived on the island, says two routes out of Port Vila are blocked by landslides and bridge down.
Cyclone Pam hit on Vanuatu on Friday night, a average wind speeds of 270kmh, gusting up to 340kmh. Damage has also occurred on other islands, such as Kiribati, Fiji and the Solomons, but details are scant at this point. A state of emergency has been declared on the 26km2 island state of Tuvalu, with a population of 11,000.
Efate, Vanuatu’s most densely populated island, which includes the capital, Port Vila, was directly in the path of the cyclone, along with numerous outer islands. Roads out of the city are reportedly blocked by landslides.
Oxfam’s executive director Helen Szoke said the outer islands were extremely remote and hard to reach in the best of times.
“We hold grave fears for the people on these outer and remote islands. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we are now dealing with worse than the worst case scenario in Vanuatu,” she said.
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