Vanuatu: residents signal for help

Emergencies, In the field article written on the 18 Mar 2015

Family living at Freswota area in Port Vila. Photo: Phillippe Metois
As aid begins to reach the hard hit Vanuatu islands of Tanna and Erromango, aerial assessments of other islands show residents signalling for help using mirrors, or by marking out large white “H’s” on the ground. 

Remote communities in Vanuatu are considered the most vulnerable — particularly given the traditional housing that is prevalent throughout the islands. Many homes are built with natural and local materials that are extremely vulnerable to strong winds and floods.

The rapid assessments of Vanuatu’s outer islands reported many villages on the islands had 80–100% of buildings damaged or destroyed. Tanna, which took the full force of the 250kmh Cyclone Pam, is about 200km south of the capital Port Vila.

CyclonePam_OuterIslands2_PhillippeMetois_648x431

Tannese community living at Blacksands area near Port Vila. Photo: Phillippe Metois

Initial reports coming from the outer island of Tanna suggest there is almost no food or clean water and very little medical assistance for the 30,000 people who live there.

CyclonePam_OuterIslands3_PhillippeMetois_648x431

Family living at Freswota area in Port Vila. Photo: Phillippe Metois

While the people of Vanuatu and their government have shown enormous strength, the scale of the devastation is still unfolding. Category 5 Cyclone Pam is likely to be the worst disaster ever seen in the Pacific.

Right now, there are real concerns about an increasing lack of food and the potential for disease due to the need for clean water and sanitation equipment.

Cyclone Pam Vanuatu

A Tannese man from the blacksands area who spent the night in an empty 40” container, which rolled two times over itself during the path of the cyclone. Photo: Phillippe Metois

Many people in remote communities are still yet to be reached — and every day counts in a situation for people without food and clean water.