A “monster” storm hit the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Friday and Saturday, causing widespread destruction and unconfirmed reports of dozens of deaths.
The cyclone passed directly over the main island, where the capital Port Vila is located, before passing through a series of islands further south, where 33,000 people live.
Here’s what Cyclone Pam looked like from a NASA satellite. The eye of the storm is east of Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is made up of 65 islands and has a population of 267,000. Nearly 50,000 people live in Port Vila, which was hit particularly hard. As much as 75% of buildings in the capital were destroyed or severely damaged. Below are some of the homes in Port Villa.
A large tree uprooted by Cyclone Pam lay on a street near a prison in Port Vila.
The category 5 storm led to winds that peaked at about 168 mph as well as rain, flooding, landslides, and sea surges that led to beached boats, destroyed homes and buildings, disintegrated roads and bridges, and disrupted communications. This is a flooded street in Port Vila.
The official death toll has eight killed and 20 injured, but that is expected to rise. Many of the outer islands, which were expected to be hit the worst, are still cut off from communications. This is the scene in a neighbourhood in Port Vila.
A child in front of his home was surrounded by debris in Port Villa. The southern island of Tanna has experienced “total devastation,” according to reports received by the Australian Red Cross.
“Many of the buildings and houses have been completely destroyed … More than 90 per cent of the buildings have been destroyed,” Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale told Reuters in Tokyo. The photo below shows residents looking at damaged boats washed up into a small inlet in Port Vila.
A boy named Samuel kicked a ball as his father, Phillip, searched through the ruins of their home, which was destroyed by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila.
Vanuatu is an extremely vulnerable place for natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and cyclones. Resident Adrian Banga saw his home destroyed by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila.
The storm is reported to be comparable in strength to Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines when it hit in 2013. Here, a car lay abandoned among damaged trees along a road in Port Vila.
“We don’t know what happened to our families,” Lonsdale told NPR. “There is a breakdown of communication so that we cannot reach our families. We do not know if our families are safe or not. As the leader of the nation, my whole heart is for the whole people of the nation.”
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