Cyclone Pam: Vanuatu death toll rises as Australia pledges $5m in aid – Rolling report

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Latest updates as emergency response teams head to the Pacific island chain to assess the damage wrought by devastating storm

Following the arrival of military planes earlier today, some food and other aid is being distributed in Port Vila, as the pictures below illustrate.

So far, only the capital is accessible for humanitarian workers – there are reports that roads out of Port Vila are blocked, and bridges torn down.

Aircraft have been sent out to record aerial imagery from more remote islands in an attempt to assess the damage there:

Red Cross personnel handling donated food to use as relief from Cyclone Pam, in the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila.
Red Cross personnel handling donated food to use as relief from Cyclone Pam, in the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila.
Red Cross personnel handling donated food to use as relief from Cyclone Pam, in the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila. Photograph: Vanuatu Red Cross/AFP/Getty Images

New Zealand is upping its financial and logistics support for Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam, AAP reports.

The foreign affairs minister, Murray McCully, on Sunday announced an additional $NZ1.5m ($A1.44m; £750,000) of funding, on top of the $NZ1m signalled on Saturday.

A New Zealand defence force C-130 Hercules transported eight tonnes of supplies and an initial New Zealand team to Vanuatu on Sunday and two more flights will be sent on Monday.

Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy said the Hercules carried first aids kits, tarpaulins, water containers, chainsaw packs and generators.

Specialists from government agencies and the New Zealand Red Cross were also on board the Hercules.

“Pacific nations such as Vanuatu are our friends and neighbours and we’re happy we can help at times of need,” he said.

With the main airport being closed to civilian transport, the Hercules load would make a real difference, he said.

There are 163 New Zealanders registered as being in Vanuatu.

View image on Twitter

Baldwin Lonsdale, the president of Vanuatu, has told the BBC that “most” of the population of his country are homeless in the wake of cyclone Pam.

Lonsdale said the cyclone had destroyed most of the buildings in Port Vila, including schools and clinics.

The president was – by coincidence – at the UN conference on disaster risk reduction in Japan, where he told delegates:

I am speaking to you today with a heart that is so heavy.

I stand to appeal on behalf of the government and the people to give a helping hand in this disaster.

Vanuatu president Baldwin Lonsdale during the third UN world conference on disaster risk reduction in Sendai, Japan.
Vanuatu president Baldwin Lonsdale during the third UN world conference on disaster risk reduction in Sendai, Japan. Photograph: Toshifumi Kitamura / Pool/EPA
This brief report from Aurelia Balpe, head of the Pacific office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, suggests that the remote islands of Tanna and Erromango in the southern part of the Vanuatu island chain have suffered catastrophic damage:
1st report private fly-over Tanna&Erramngo, trees uprooted, no corrugated iron structures standing, no roofs on concrete blds, no H20

Cruise ship operator Carnival Australia says it has donated $150,000 to Save the Children Australia towards the relief effort in Vanuatu, and says it will be sending fresh water and building supplies on Legend, its ship sailing to Luganville. The second largest city in Vanuatu is “largely unscathed”, it says.

View image on Twitter

Carnival Australia @CarnivalAusNews

Can do cruise people. @CarnivalOz Jennifer Vandekreeke loaded car with freshwater & delivered to Vanuatu bound Legend

 

 

New Zealand prepares for Cyclone Pam

Although New Zealand is not in the direct path of Cyclone Pam, its northern areas are expected to bear the brunt of some severe weather as the storm passes close by.

The government has warned people in the northeast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Hawkes Bay, as well as outer islands including the Chatham Islands, to take precautions.

NZ civil defence minister Nikki Kaye said:

I’ve been advised that New Zealand is not in the cyclone’s direct path, but we’re still likely to experience severe weather in affected areas as it passes by. Other areas may also experience effects such as increased sea swells.

Our thoughts are with those in countries such as Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, which have been badly affected by the cyclone. New Zealand is providing appropriate assistance to our Pacific neighbours.

Although I’m advised that Pam is losing strength as it heads south,MetService has forecast severe rain and wind in affected areas.

Local councils and civil defence teams have spent the last few days informing communities and working with relevant agencies to prepare for potential severe weather.

My message to New Zealanders living in affected areas is to make sure you have good preparations in place. This means having enough food and water and an emergency kit on hand. Also, secure outside objects that could blow around in high winds.

We are treating this event seriously. Although we’re not on the direct path of this weakening cyclone, we are still likely to experience severe weather in affected areas.

The New Zealand government has pledged $1.5m to relief efforts in the Pacific islands.

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Here’s the 8am satellite image showing TC Pam north of New Zealand. Latest warnings at http://www.metservice.com/warnings/severe-weather-warnings

 

AAP is reporting that health is now a major concern in Vanuatu, where power outages have hit the main hospital.

“We have heard that the generator at Port Vila Central hospital is no longer operational,” Oxfam’s country director in Port Vila, Colin Collet van Rooyen, said on Sunday.

This not only affected patient care but also temperature-sensitive medications and vaccines, which need refrigeration.

Collet van Rooyen said it was one of the problems that came up at a meeting between the high commissioners of Australia and New Zealand and Vanuatu’s top officials at the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) on Sunday.

Water sanitation and hygiene at the shelters as well as the need for temporary mortuary facilities also emerged as major concerns at the meeting, Collet van Rooyen said.

05:09

Oxfam Australia reports from Port Vila in Vanuatu that the cyclone has caused massive, widespread damage.

Oxfam’s country director in Port Vila, Colin Collet van Rooyen, said:

At least 90% of housing here in Port Vila has been badly damaged; the kids have nowhere to go to school; there is no power at the hospital, which has also flooded in parts; and damage to the state mortuary means we need a temporary mortuary set up quickly.

Clean water, sanitation and hygiene supplies are also a major issue for those left homeless and also those in evacuation centres, where there simply are not enough toilets or clean water for the amount of people in those facilities.

With extra help arriving on the Australian government plane today we now have a team of 10 people working on this emergency response, and there is a lot of work to be done.

Oxfam Australia’s executive director Helen Szoke said:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that we are now dealing with worse than the worst case scenario in Vanuatu.

This is likely to be one of the worst disasters ever seen in the Pacific.

Here is the full statement from Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, about the Cyclone Pam relief response for Vanuatu:

Today I announce that the Australian government will provide an initial package of support to Vanuatu, as it responds to the devastation inflicted by Tropical Cyclone Pam.

This support responds to a request from the government of Vanuatu. Australia stands with Vanuatu, our close friend and partner, at this difficult time. Our thoughts and sympathy go out to all those affected.

The initial package of assistance from Australia will include:

  • $5m to assist the efforts of Australian non-government organisations, the Red Cross and United Nations partners;
  • the deployment of humanitarian supplies from Australia to assist up to 5,000 people, including water and sanitation and shelter kits;
  • the deployment of an Australian medical team and an urban search and rescue assessment team;
  • the deployment of a DFAT Crisis Response Team, comprising eight officials to boost consular support to Australian citizens and coordinate Australia’s humanitarian assistance;
  • the deployment of an Australian disaster expert to the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team.

A first contingent of Australian officials and supplies arrived in Port Vila at approximately 12pm (local time).

Australians with concerns for the welfare of family and friends in Vanuatu should first attempt to contact them directly. If unable to do so, Australians can call the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 (option 6), or +61 2 6261 3305 if overseas.

Foreign minister Julie Bishop in Perth on Sunday.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop in Perth on Sunday. Photograph: Angie Raphael/AAPIMAGE

 

ir Vanuatu to resume flights on Monday

Air Vanuatu has said it will resume some flights between Port Vila and Australia on Monday.

In a statement on its website, the airline said:

Port Vila airport has reopened with limited facilities. Planned flights for Monday 16 March are:

NF11 Sydney – Vila DEP 0600 ARR 0925

NF10 Vila-Sydney DEP 1120 ARR 1515

NF ** Sydney – Vila DEP 1615 ARR 1915 [** Flight Number TBA]

NF21 Vila – Brisbane DEP 2115 ARR 2245

Tuesday flight schedules to be advised.

Charity World Vision, which is on the ground in Port Vila, Vanuatu, sends these images of damage from the capital:

Local residents look at damaged boats washed up in Port Vila.
Local residents look at damaged boats washed up in Port Vila. Photograph: Stringer/REUTERS
Port Vila Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam.
Port Vila Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam. Photograph: World Vision/Supplied

 

 

 

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