Stories of devastation from Vanuatu in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam

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Oxfam staff on the ground in Port Vila have reported complete destruction of homes, three storey high trees completely uprooted and small communities with barely any houses left standing. Oxfam's Vanuatu Country Director Colin Collett van Rooyen said people in Vanuatu had told him they had never seen a cyclone like this and they were scared of the devastation that would unfold as teams were able to make their way into hard to reach areas.

“We have no power or running water and are still not able to move around freely," Mr Collett van Rooyen said.

"The scale of this disaster is unprecedented in this country and the proud people of Vanuatu are going to need a lot of help to rebuild their homes and their lives."

He said there was still a red alert in place in Port Vila with high winds and rain and storm swells.

After a last minute change of course to the west Cyclone Pam made a direct hit on Vanuatu last 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.

Oxfam is now preparing to respond to what is likely one of the worst cyclones ever seen in the Pacific region.

The highly populated island of Efate, which includes the Vanuatu capital Port Vila, was directly in the path of the cyclone.

Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said the agency was deeply concerned for people in Vanuatu's harder to reach outer islands.

"These islands have much less infrastructure than the capital of Port Vila and are extremely remote and hard to reach in the best of times," Winnie Byanyima said.

'We hold grave fears for the people on these outer and remote islands.

"It’s becoming increasingly clear that we are now dealing with worst case scenario in Vanuatu," she said.

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.


Melanie Gallant
Media Relations


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