The bodies of four sailors have been found in the water after Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu causing wide-spread damage
Sailors’ paradise Vanuatu, in the south Pacific was hit by Cyclone ‘Pam’ on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 March 2015. Winds of up to 300 kph (162 knots) hit the tropical archipelago over the weekend, causing widespread destruction. Communications have been badly damaged in many places, meaning the full impact of the storm, particularly in remoter islands and villages, is still unknown. The bodies of four sailors from non-resident yachts moored in Port Vila have been found.
Guardian Australia, reports that at least four sailors from two boats have been killed: a family of three, including a child, on one boat and a middle-aged man on another, but their identities and nationalities have not yet been confirmed. Some boats moored or ashore in the islands are thought to have escaped unscathed, while reports suggest that of 28 yachts moored on ‘cyclone-proof’ moorings in Port Vila, 20 came adrift, many of which were damaged or sank on the shore.
Casualties so far have, however, been lower than originally feared, with United Nations figures indicating 11 fatalities so far, down from initial reports of 24. In comparison Aid Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013, which was of a similar strength, killed more than 6,000 people. The situation is still grave, however, as over 3,000 people have been displaced, and limited supplies of water and local food are running low.
65 of the 82 islands in the chain are inhabited and the majority of these are small in size and geographically remote. Reconnaisance flights have revealed almost complete destruction of villages and forests on some islands, where locals are struggling with severe water and food shortages.
The worst hit island was Tanna, about 200 km (125 miles) to the south of the capital Port Vila, which bore the brunt of the storm, with reports of at least four deaths so far. Villagers survived by gathering in strong buildings such as the school and church. Save the Children reported that on the small island of Tongoa around 95 per cent of homes have been destroyed.
Around 40 per cent of Vanuatu’s economy is based on tourism, and sailing is a significant part of this. While many sailors avoid the cyclone season by sailing to Australia or New Zealand, not all can or want to, if they have already been there, or need maintenance work ahead of any crossing.
Australia, France and the US are among the countries sending aid. There are concerns about the speed of the recovery, with health risks and economic damage escalating as time goes on. Getting aid to the islands has proven difficult because of a lack of landing strips or deepwater ports.
For those who want to donate, details of the UNICEF appeal can be found at: www.unicef.org.uk/landing-pages/donate-vanuatu-cylone-pam