Scale of humanitarian crisis in Vanuatu becoming clearer

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More Oxfam Humanitarian Emergency responders are flying to Vanuatu this morning on an Australian Government plane, as the unconfirmed death toll in the small archipelago begins to climb and worse than worst case scenario unfolds.

Oxfam Country Director in Port Vila, Colin Collet van Rooyen, said the situation in Vanuatu was increasingly grim.

“There are more than 100,000 people likely homeless, more than 90% of houses damaged in Port Vila alone, nearly every school destroyed, full evacuation centres, damage to health facilities and the morgue,” Mr Collet van Rooyen said.

“Reports today of catastrophic devastation in Erromango and Tanna Islands in the south with non concrete buildings completely flattened and the few concrete buildings without roofs confirm that there are still many many people in need across the archipelago.

“The Australian and New Zealand aid that is beginning to arrive now is very welcome, but of course we will need much more,” he said. “Clean water, sanitation and hygiene supplies are also a major issue for those left homeless and also those in evacuation centres, where there simply are not enough toilets or clean water for the amount of people in those facilities.

“Canadians understand the severe damage and suffering that extreme weather can bring” says Ann Witteveen, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Manager. “The people of Vanuatu will need our support and solidarity in the coming weeks as they attempt to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.”

Cyclone Pam made a direct hit on Vanuatu on Friday night, tearing through the archipelago with winds of up to 250kmh.

With more than 250,000 people at risk from the severe tropical cyclone there is real concern of a potentially high death toll and of enormous destruction, particularly given the traditional housing that is so prevalent through the islands. Dr Szoke said grave fears were held for those people on the outer islands with little or no protection from the 250kmh winds.

Port Vila was recently named in the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas and is known as the city most exposed to natural disasters in the world because it faces a combination of risks including earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and tropical cyclones such as Cyclone Pam.

For interviews with Ann Witteveen and Oxfam’s staff on the ground, please contact Melanie Gallant: .

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