Tropical Cyclone Pam has devastated the island nation of Vanuatu, leaving thousands homeless and without power, food, or clean water. The extent of the damage may not be known for weeks.
The BBC reports Cyclone Pam, whose winds, at the peak of the storm, reached 300 km an hour, has left the entire island region in a state of emergency. Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, has stated that most of the buildings Port Vila, the capital, have been destroyed, including schools and medical clinics.
Pictures and video show fishing boats lying in residents’ yards with homes flattened, trees fully up rooted, and vital crops destroyed.
Helen Szoke, executive director in Australia for the aid group Oxfam told CNN that the damage caused by Cyclone Pam is worse than the worst case scenario. She went on to say “This is likely to be one of the worst disasters ever seen in the Pacific.”
While the island capital, Port Vila, saw its fair share of damage, with 90 percent of the homes damaged, parts of the local hospital flooded, and the state mortuary hit, it is the havoc wreaked on the outlying areas that concerns aid workers the most.
Out of the 80 plus islands that make up the archipelago, only 65 of them are inhabited, with many people living much like their ancestors. Homes are simply built out of thatch, corrugated steel, and other materials that are not strong enough to withstand a category five cyclone.
Aid crews from CARE international were some of the first to arrive, and some of the first to report on the apocalyptic scene. Tom Perry, aid worker from CARE, told CNN that while the damage is incredible, there is activity in Port Vila, with downed trees being removed from roads and shelters being built to help the displaced.
Cyclone Pam, however, is not finished with the Pacific region, and is on its way to New Zealand’s North Island. It is expected to pass by the island Sunday through Monday but with less strength than when it struck Vanuatu.
New Zealand’s official weather center is predicting eight inches of rain and wind gusts exceeding 100 mph through parts of the North island.
Cyclone Pam is the second most powerful cyclone to hit the South Pacific since the 1970s, when official records of the storms began. It is the most powerful of any storm to make landfall since Super Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippians in 2013, killing over 6,000 people, with reports that the number could have been as high as 10,000, as reported by the Inquisitr.