Vanuatu pummelled after Cyclone Pam

14 Mar 2015   |   Media release   |   Vanuatu   |   Emergency Relief

An estimated 44 people are feared dead and thousands affected after Cyclone Pam pummelled Vanuatu on Friday night, in the largest cyclones to hit the country.

We are liaising with our Pacific partners, staff and Church networks to monitor the aftermath of the Super Cyclone, assess damage and respond to requests for support should it be needed."
Stephanie Lalor, Pacific Programs Manager

Communities in Vanuatu braced themselves overnight, as the category 5 storm travelled in the direction of the most populated island of Efate, where more than 65,000 people live, including the capital Port Vila. During Cyclone Pam, many took refuge in churches and schools.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said Cyclone Pam was “near peak intensity with winds in the eye region averaging 130 to 140 knots (250 to 270 km/h) with gusts up to 180 knots (340 km/h).”

Caritas Australia Pacific Programs Manager, Stephanie Lalor said Caritas was liaising with its partners, staff and Church networks to assess the damage and prepare to respond.

“We are concerned at the intensity of Cyclone Pam and are awaiting assessments of the damage and impact,” Ms Lalor said. “We are liaising with our Pacific partners, staff and Church networks to monitor the aftermath of the Super Cyclone, assess damage and respond to requests for support should it be needed”.

“The church has a valuable role to play in responding to disasters like this one which often impact vulnerable communities the most. That’s why the ongoing work in the region to support communities to reduce the risk to natural disasters such as Cyclone Pam is so important.”

In Vanuatu, UN OCHA said the tropical cyclone had moved west of its predicted route, and as a result putting several islands of the Vanuatu archipelago "directly in the path of the very destructive eye region of this cyclone".

According to the UN, the regions of Maewo, Ambae and Pentecost were most likely the hardest hit, with more than 30,000 people living there.

Ms Lalor said Caritas Australia partners in the region had reported evacuation and safety preparations have been underway for a few days as the Cyclone has been moving through the Pacific.

Tropical Cyclone Nathan, now located in the Coral Sea as a Category 2 cyclone, is expected to intensify and turn towards Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and possibly Vanuatu next week. This could have devastating effects for communities living in areas that have already experienced prolonged and heavy rains and other impacts from Tropical Cyclone Pam.

Donate to Caritas Australia’s General Emergency Fund to respond to this disaster »


Caritas media contact: Nicole Clements 0408 869 833 or media@caritas.org.au


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