Vanuatu is assessing the damage after 270kmh winds from category 5 cyclone Pam battered the Pacific island nation of 260,000 people overnight. Gusts of up to 340kmh were measured, causing widespread damage reported with unconfirmed reports that up to 44 people have died on outlying islands in the northeast.
Six people have been confirmed so far. More casualties are expected, but communications with many of the nation’s islands are hampered in what’s increasingly looking like the worst natural disaster in Vanuatu’s history.
Australia has offered to send assistance.
Power and communications have been severely disrupted, but images are beginning to emerge of the destruction around the capital of Port Vila, with extensive flooding, trees felled and metal roofs ripped off numerous homes. Some estimates include a sea surge of up to eight metres.
Tom Skirrow, regional director for Save the Children, told ABC News 24 that an estimated 10,000 people in Port Vila will need emergency accommodation for at least four to six weeks.
CARE Australia’s prog director Charlie Damon said his organisation was “deeply concerned about what’s happened in remote communities without emergency shelters.”
Vanuatu consists of 83 islands and access may be difficult in the wake of the storm.
Many of the islanders live in thatched homes and the extent of the damage cause outside the capital is unknown.
By 10pm on Saturday, Unicef said more than half the population – 132,000 people – were in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, including as many as 54,000 children.
Unicef’s Alice Clements, who is in Vanuatu said “it’s like a bomb has gone off in the center of the town.d”, with countless homes destroyed and communities in ruins.
Cyclone Pam is now heading south towards New Zealand and has yet to drop in intensity.
Meanwhile cyclone off the Western Australian coast has been downgraded after weakening overnight. Ex tropical cyclone Olwyn is now producing heavy rain in the area around Ningaloo Reef.
Video of the destruction around Port Vila has emerged, courtesy of Nature Reporter.
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