Vanuatu residents endured a harrowing night as category 5 severe Tropical Cyclone Pam slammed into Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. The Red Cross is currently carrying out preliminary assessments in Port Vila and other affected areas, while mobilizing its emergency response teams to deliver assistance.
“The humanitarian needs are enormous,” said Augustine Garae, Head of Disaster Management for the Vanuatu Red Cross as surveyed the scene in Port Vila. “We know there has been widespread destruction and many people have lost their homes.”
Shelter, water, food and first aid are urgent priorities and the Red Cross is working closely with local authorities and other actors to support the government-led response. In collaboration with the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), the Vanuatu Red Cross is contacting its branches and volunteers to gather information on the impact assessments that are being carried out and to prepare for further relief distributions. 200 active volunteers who have been mobilized, visiting 26 evacuation centres in Port Vila where the Vanuatu Red Cross is assisting authorities with distributions, registrations in evacuation centres and assessments in all affected areas.
Thousands of people have been seeking safety in safe buildings and evacuations centres. In Erromango Island and other areas of Vanuatu, people have also used traditional methods of protection such as seeking shelter in caves.
“Communication is down in much of the country but we are doing everything possible to help those in need,” said Aurélia Balpe, head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Pacific.
“Tens of thousands of people are still in the middle of a terrifying ordeal and we need to urgently assess the humanitarian needs and start meeting them as soon as possible”.
Red Cross emergency response teams in the Solomon Islands and Fiji are also activated and assessments are being carried out in Tuvalu and Kiribati, where associated sea swells have caused significant damage. The Red Cross is also monitoring closely the situation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Papua New Guinea with the respective authorities.