Vanuatu's Tanna Island 'In Ruins' After Cyclone Pam

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National state of emergency likely

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 16, 2015) – The first report from one of Vanuatu's more remote islands suggests devastation on a massive scale in the wake of Cyclone Pam.

With wind gusts of more than 300 kilometres per hour, Cyclone Pam razed homes, smashed boats and destroyed crops. Aid workers describe the situation as catastrophic.

The death toll in Vanuatu is understood to be eight and 20 injured, but those numbers are almost certain to rise as rescuers reach outlying islands.

The full force of category five storm hit Tanna Island on Saturday night, but at that stage the extent of damage on the island of some 29,000 people was unclear.

The head of the Red Cross regional office in Suva, Aurelia Balpe, said a Red Cross worker had made it to Tanna and witnessed an island in ruins.

"What they saw was lots of debris, the foliage was completely destroyed, lots of uprooted trees.

"All corrugated iron structures destroyed, concerte structures, all of them without roofs.

"And, of course, with all the debris we are very worried about the potential injuries that people may have suffered."

The worker reported two deaths, yet to be be confirmed by Vanuatu's government.

National state of emergency likely

The Vanuatu Government has declared a State of Emergency in Shefa province and is expecting to announce a national state of emergency following the destruction of Cyclone Pam.

Lands Minister, Ralph Regenvanu, said he had never seen as much destruction in the country.

He said it could be the worst cyclone to ever hit Vanuatu.

"We've only declared a state of emergency in Shefa province because that's where the government is located.

"With the other provinces, because we have no connection at all, we want to get some level of assistance first before a declaration is made.

"I'm 100 percent sure this will be a national state of emergency, simply because this is the biggest cyclone that's ever hit Vanuatu."

UNICEF worker in Port Vila, Alice Clements, said people were now getting on with the clean-up.

"We're seeing people working really industriously to clean the roads and to cut down electrical cables in Port Vila that have been literally covering the roads and [are] very dangerous.

"There's a long long way ahead of us, but now people are sitting down thinking, 'okay, what do we need to do'."



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