News > Hurricane Pam Batters Vanuatu
A severe tropical cyclone battered Vanuatu and its quarter of a million inhabitants in March. It is regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in Vanuatu’s history.
Tropical cyclone Pam was classified as a category five storm with wind gusts reaching nearly 200 mph and sustained winds peaking at 155 mph - the equivalent of a super typhoon.
Evacuations were carried out on the South Pacific island following warnings of storm surges, torrential rain, flash flooding and landslides. Sixteen people are reported to have lost their lives with thousands left homeless as an estimated 90% of buildings in the country’s capital were damaged or destroyed by the cyclone.
Approximately 103,000 people were affected in Vanuatu, and thousands more in nine countries across the Pacific, including Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.
“Homes have been lost, crops are destroyed. The damage is enormous, and people need our help,” said Aurelia Balpe, head of the Red Cross in the Pacific. “Yet it will still take some time before we really understand the full extent of the damage.”
Helen Szoke, executive director in Australia for the aid group Oxfam said, “This is likely to be one of the worst disasters ever seen in the Pacific.”
This disaster is a stark reminder of the risks faced by small islands when extreme weather events occur.