Vanuatu is in crisis after reports the most powerful cyclone to have hit the South Pacific has caused widespread destruction across the Pacific Nation.
The devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam is only now filtering through. It is understood that more than 40 people may have died in one of the central provinces, though lost communications have made it difficult for authorities to confirm damage and deaths.
The ABC is reporting that humanitarian organisations have warned of “complete annihilation” in Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila, where the cyclone reportedly tore through at 340 kilometres per hour.
But some fear the devastation could be even worse in the outer islands.
According to Vanuatu’s Meteorological Services, Cyclone Pam was about 25 kilometres south-west of Tanna, in Vanuatu’s southernmost province, at 9:20am (AEDT), moving southwards at 30 kilometres per hour.
The centre of the storm passed the capital, Port Vila, overnight, and was reportedly moving south at about 25km/h on this morning. The periphery of the eye of the storm had passed over islands that are home to several thousand people.
A leading Australian charity has warned the safety of 50,000 children is at risk.
Olivia Zinazan from Save the Children told Sky News relief workers have described scenes of ‘massive damage’ in the capital.
‘Houses are destroyed, trees are down and roads are blocked which has left residents wandering the streets searching for help,’ she said.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced a crisis response team is ready to go to the islands and assess the situation.
“Australia stand ready to assist Vanuatu in its time of need,” she told media this morning.
Medical and search and rescue teams on standby, she said, and Vanuatu had requested assistance with reconnaissance aircraft to help assess the extent of the damage.
While humanitarian organisations said they were on standby to help the Vanuatu government respond to the impacts of Cyclone Pam, here in Australia the support from the public has already kicked in, with the launch of a Facebook Page – Give to Vanuatu.
The page – www.facebook.com/givetovanuatu has details on how we can help those in Vanuatu in this their most desperate time of need.
Drop off points have been set up at 2/110 Sunshine Parade, Miami – Gold Coast and 35 Dimantina St, Chapel Hill – Brisbane, urging people to donate everything from bedding, clothing, shelter (tarps, ropes), cooking utensils, torch lights, toiletries – all the necessities and day to day things we all take for granted. Food can also be donated so long as it’s canned and not perishable.
For families and friends of those in Vanuatu DFAT has a hotline number 1300 555 135 to call.
Thoughts are with everyone in Vanuatu.