President appeals for ‘immediate’ help for Cyclone Pam-torn Vanuatu
VANUATU is in “immediate” need after Cyclone Pam tore through the country at the weekend, its President Baldwin Lonsdale said.
President Lonsdale said the storm had “wiped out” all development of recent years and his country would have to rebuild “everything”.
Aid has begun arriving in the storm-hit nation – one of the world’s poorest – but contact has still not been made with some of its more remote islands. Aid agencies say it could be one of the worst disasters ever to hit the region.
The official death toll stands at eight, but it is expected to rise.
The BBC’s Jon Donnison, in the capital, Port Vila, says just about every house there has received some damage and the situation for many people is bleak.
One village chief told our correspondent there was a desperate need for fresh water supplies.
The sense of devastation is absolutely immense and when you land, it doesn’t take long for that sense of devastation to increase.
Many family homes have been stripped of their roofs or flattened by very powerful winds and torrential rain.
The air here is very thick with smoke because the cleanup has already begun – the debris is being chopped down, collected and burned.
There is a sense here that people will rebuild but it only takes a brief moment in the capital to realise that this rebuilding effort will take many months if not years.
This is a vast archipelago, the population is spread over more than 60 islands and communications are down. It’s very difficult for the authorities to have a true picture of the devastation but it’s clear the number of dead will increase when communications are made with those outlying areas.
The category five storm, with winds of up to 300km/h (185mph), struck populated areas when it reached Vanuatu early on Saturday local time (+11 GMT).
President Lonsdale, who was attending a disaster preparedness conference in Japan when the storm hit, has appealed for international help, telling AFP news agency: “The humanitarian need is immediate, we need it right now.”
Earlier, Mr. Lonsdale had described the storm as “a monster”, and said he had not been able to confirm that his own family was safe.
The president said climate change had contributed to the disaster, saying his country had seen changing weather patterns, rising seas and heavier-than-average rain.
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