Aid teams arriving in Vanuatu encounter widespread devastation

NewsBy Neil Fetherston
Aid workers described the situation as catastrophic
Aid workers described the situation as catastrophic

The first aid teams to reach Vanuatu have encountered widespread devastation and authorities declared a state of emergency after a “monster” cyclone tore through the vulnerable Pacific island nation.

With winds of more than 300 kph (185 mph), Cyclone Pam razed homes, smashed boats and washed away roads and bridges as it struck late on Friday and into Saturday. Aid workers described the situation as catastrophic.

The president of Vanuatu said on Sunday he fears the impact from a devastating tropical storm will be “the very, very, very worst” in isolated outer islands but damage was still being assessed.

Aid workers described the situation as catastrophic.

The official count of confirmed deaths was at eight with 20 people injured. But those numbers were almost certain to rise as rescuers reached the low-lying archipelago's outlying islands.

Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office said the government still had no word from outside the capital.

"Our communication link is still down," said Paolo Malatu, a relief official at the office.

"We haven't got any information from outside Port Vila."

"The biggest need at the moment is shelter and food and wash kits," Mr Malatu said.

Witnesses described sea surges of up to eight metres and flooding throughout Port Vila after the category five cyclone hit.

Satellite images showed a menacing spiral of storm covering virtually the whole archipelago as it swirled around its eye.

Residents said the storm sounded like a freight train. Port Vila, the capital, was strewn with debris and looked as if a bomb had gone off.