“As our plane descended into Port Vila, I caught glimpses of the islands that make up Vanuatu between perfectly formed clouds, which looked still, as if in a painting — the blue of the ocean a calm turquoise canvas beneath. The islands themselves looked ravaged, trees torn and broken and houses left without roofs or walls. I found myself imagining how different this view would have been just a week before, on the eve of the biggest cyclone to ever hit the Pacific.”
Just days after the President of Vanuatu almost broke down as he spoke of the devastation that Tropical Cyclone Pam had inflicted upon his nation, the mood is bittersweet at the closing of the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Sendai, Japan.
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.
Colin Collett van Rooyen, Country Director of Oxfam Vanuatu remarks of the resilience of the people in Vanuatu as they face an extreme challenge in Cyclone Pam: “Their absolute resilience clear as crystal on what was otherwise a dark day. Muted smiles when any form of smile would be near impossible for most. Tears too, but hugs – tight embraces of personhood. Being there and being with each other for each other.”
More Oxfam Humanitarian Emergency responders have flown to Vanuatu this morning as the unconfirmed death toll from Cyclone Pam begins to climb. Oxfam Country Director in Port Vila, Colin Collett van Rooyen, said the situation in Vanuatu was increasingly grim.
“Pam arrived announced by the drum roll of our shutters. Then she roared, she squealed, she hissed. She spat and cursed in deep bass tones, and at the same time she whistled and screeched in ways that messed with our senses.”
Cyclone Pam, a massive category 5 cyclone has torn a path of destruction through the small Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu. In its wake it has left the community the huge task of rebuilding wrecked lives. Oxfam has a team based in the country and is ready to respond to support the people of Vanuatu.
A severe Category 5 cyclone is on it’s way to Vanuatu. All six provinces and islands are on red alert — the highest alert and warning level in Vanuatu. Colin Collett van Rooyen, Oxfam’s Country Director in Vanuatu says Oxfam is on standby but is worried for the small island nation.
As natural disasters are increasing globally in both frequency and impact, Oxfam’s work in vulnerable countries like The Philippines has become even more critical. According to the World Bank, every dollar invested in preparing for natural disasters now can save seven dollars in recovery costs in the future.
Five years ago this month, the most powerful earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years struck the teeming capital of Port-au-Prince, killing more than 220,000 people, injuring more than 300,000 others, and reducing great swaths of the city to rubble.