Cyclone Pam: 'apocalyptic' levels of destruction in Vanuatu

Vanuatu's president says climate change is to blame for the increase in cyclones and extreme weather

Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, Vanuatu
(Image credit: 2015 UNICEF)

Emergency aid and relief supplies have begun to arrive in Vanuatu, the small Pacific island nation devastated by the ravages of tropical cyclone Pam this weekend.

The category five storm is one of the worst natural disasters to have ever hit the region, with aid agencies describing the devastation as "apocalyptic". Winds of up to 200mph destroyed homes, roads and bridges and brought down phone and power lines.

"Virtually every building that is not concrete has been flattened," a member of the Red Cross team told Sky news Australia.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The official death toll in Vanuatu stands at eight, but aid agencies fear the number could rise significantly as rescue teams finally reach the country's outlying islands.

Vanuatu's president said the "monster" cyclone had "wiped out" the country's development. Baldwin Lonsdale, who happened to be in Japan at a disaster risk conference when the storm struck, made a tearful appeal for aid and assistance from the international community.

Although emergency supplies have begun to arrive in Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, aid agencies warn that it may take days to reach the remote villages across the archipelago's 80 islands. Thousands of people are now homeless as a result of the storm.

Lonsdale says climate change has contributed to changing weather patterns in the region, sea level rise and an increase in the prevalence of cyclones. "This year we have more [cyclones] than in any year. Yes, climate change is contributing to this," he said.

The president of Kiribati, another Pacific island nation affected by Pam, said it was time for international leaders to "match the rhetoric" and take urgent action to combat the effects of climate change, according to The Guardian.

"For leaders of low-lying island atolls, the hazards of global warming affect our people in different ways, and it is a catastrophe that impinges on our rights … and our survival into the future," said Anote Tong.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.