Damage extensive on two of Vanuatu’s outer Islands in wake of Cyclone Pam

By Oxfam
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Families in the Blacksands area near Port Vila face extensive losses in the wake of Cyclone Pam. Photo by Philippe Metois/Oxfam Australia

A ferry of relief supplies is due to arrive soon on Tanna, where 30,000 people live.

Cyclone Pam has destroyed between 80 and 100 percent of the buildings in many of the villages on two of Vanuatu’s outer islands—Tanna and Erromango—according to a rapid assessment carried out by Oxfam yesterday. The storm slammed into the South Pacific nation on Friday, March 13, with winds up to 155 miles per hour, causing widespread devastation.

More teams of humanitarian aid workers are expected to arrive on the islands today with a ferry of relief supplies due to reach one of them—Tanna, home to 30,000 people—tomorrow. Others will need help too, based on information from aerial assessments.

“The aerial assessments of Ambryn island repoertd large with ‘Hs’ marked out on the ground by people signaling for help,” said Colin Collett van Rooyen, Oxfam’s country director in Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila. “And on Tongoa island, there were people holding up mirrors also signaling for help.”

The UN has revised the death toll from the storm down to 11. But concerns remain high about the potential for disease outbreaks if there is not adequate clean water and sanitation for people. There is also concern about food shortages as the storm damaged crops.

“The Vanuatu government is working hard for its people, but the need for humanitarian aid in response to this crisis is enormous,” said Collett van Rooyen. Oxfam has been working with National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and other aid groups in the emergency operations center since before Cyclone Pam hit the country. We are planning to scale up our water, sanitation, and hygiene propgram to help reduce the risk of disease outbreaks.

Home to more than 250,000 people, Vanuatu is a Y-shaped chain of four main islands and 80 smaller ones with narrow coastal plains in the South Pacific. Port Vila has been named in the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas as the city most exposed to natural disasters in the world because of the risks it faces from earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, and cyclones like Pam.

Oxfam has been working on disaster preparedness at both the local and national level in Vanuatu for the past four years. We have been funding communities to build cyclone-proof classrooms and coordinating the Vanuatu humanitarian team while working closely with governments and donor agencies to strengthen disaster preparedness across the country

Please donate to the Cyclone Pam Relief and Recovery Fund today to rush emergency aid to the region.

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