World Vision reaches remote island in Vanuatu, finds “utter devastation”
Tuesday 17th March, 2015
As aid agencies begin to gain access to Vanuatu’s outer islands, the full extent of the damage from Cyclone Pam is
becoming clearer. World Vision’s emergency team chartered a flight to Tanna Island on Tuesday to assess the situation
there and begin its first distribution of emergency supplies. The island is located in Tafea Province, south-east of the
capital, Port Vila, and it is one of the more remote islands in the archipelago, only accessible by boat.
“It was a scene of utter destruction,” said Mike Wolfe, World Vision’s National Director in Vanuatu. “Just severe
devastation everywhere you looked. The trees were stripped bare, broken branches everywhere, and many of the homes we
saw were completely destroyed.”
World Vision was the first organisation able to reach Tanna Island after the Category 5 cyclone slammed into Vanuatu
earlier this week. The most urgent needs right now are food, water, and shelter. The organisation plans to return to
Tanna Island Tuesday to continue its emergency response work. A team also distributed temporary shelter materials,
cooking utensils, and hygiene kits to 810 people in Port Vila.
World Vision New Zealand’s General Manager of International Partnerships Alex Snary travelled to Tanna Island today to
assess the damage. He will be available for interviews by this evening.
According to the latest report from the United Nations
, there are now 24 confirmed fatalities, though the toll is likely to rise as rescue workers make their way to other
islands. Some 3,300 people are registered in evacuation centers. Radio and telephone communication with the outer
islands is still not possible.
“One of the hardest parts of this response is reaching isolated communities located on incredibly remote islands,” added
Wolfe. “It’s not just a matter of reaching each island. Once you reach the island, you have to reach the community. And
there are very few proper roads here. Most of them are simple dirt paths that are now muddy, probably covered with
downed trees and possibly even washed away in the storm. The logistics of this response are daunting.”
Travel in and out of Vanuatu and around the islands remains incredibly difficult and costly. The Port Vila airport
terminal, towers and airfield are badly flooded. The airport, which has been closed to commercial flights since Pam hit
Vanuatu, opened to civilian flights yesterday.
Most islands aren’t easily accessible by boat so charter flights need to be booked for travel, assessments, and
distribution of relief supplies.
World Vision responders on Santo Island (Sanma Province) found that it had been relatively unscathed by the storm, and
electricity is still on throughout the island. The aid agency is now been able to make contact with 54 of its 81 staff
across the country and continue to work urgently to reach the others.
World Vision New Zealand has launched an appeal to ensure that much needed supplies make their way to Vanuatu.
The public can donate here: www.worldvision.org.nz/cyclonepam
or by calling 0800 905 0008 0800 905 0008