Cyclone Pam made her way across the Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu destroying houses and leaving people to wander the streets as torrential rains and 270 kmp winds ripped through the area.
Entire villages were destroyed as streets became littered with personal belongings, uprooted trees, power lines and roofs. Aid agencies have confirmed the death of eight people so far, however, UN agencies say dozens may have died.
The UN’s Office for the Co-ordination for Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) said earlier that there are unconfirmed reports of 44 deaths in Penama province.
New Zealand Unicef says this is one of the worst weather disasters for the region.
“While it is too early to say for certain, early reports are indicating that this weather disaster could potentially be one of the worst in Pacific history,” New Zealand executive director Vivien Maidaborn said in a statement.
He adds, “The sheer force of the storm combined with communities just not set up to withstand it, could have devastating results for thousands across the region.”
Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Londsdale, was attending the World Conference on Disaster Risk and Reduction in Japan, when the storm hit. He is appealing for international support:
“I am speaking with you today with a heart that is so heavy.
“I stand to appeal on behalf of the government and people of Vanuatu to the global community to give a lending hand.”
Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, said the country was preparing to send a crisis response team to Vanuatu if needed.
Bishop said, “There are destructive winds, rain, flooding, landslides, sea surges and very rough seas and the storm is exceedingly destructive there.
“We are still assessing the situation, but we stand ready to assist.”
The category 5 tropical storm already ripped through other Pacific islands including the Solomon Islands and Kiribati.