Widespread devastation has been caused by cyclone Pam after it struck Vanuatuon 13thMarch.
Official figures from OCHA claim that there are now 11 confirmed fatalities. The death toll figures have varied from 16 to 24 but revised to 11 on 22ndMarch. According to reports fatalities occurred on theisland ofTafea,Efate and Tanna.
166,600 people have also been affected on the nations 22 islands, 3392 are currently living in 30 evacuation centres set up and 65,000 are in need of temporary shelter.
Infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and power and communication lines have been damaged or destroyed, making it difficult or impossible to reach the other islands. Officials claim that 20% to 90% of homes, schools, clinics and churches have been destroyed. Some villages have witnessed 100% destruction. In the provinces of Penama, Malampa, Shefa and Tafea, 14,000 homes are believed to have been destroyed or damaged by Pam. The islands of Nanumaga, Nanumea, Nui, Tanna and Vaitupu are the worst affected.
Crops have also suffered damage or have been destroyed and fishing fleets and livestock have been killed. Water and sanitation infrastructure have also been damaged or destroyed raising concerns of access to safe drinking water and the spread of diseases.
The number of fatalities is unfortunately likely to increase as the isolated islands are reached over the next few days. The true scale of the devastation will also become clearer when an assessment is carried out across the islands.
A state of emergency has been declared by officials who believe this could be the worse disaster to be witnessed in the southern Pacific. Relief effort is currently taking place with aid being provided to the victims. Shortage of food and drinking water has been of concern over the last few days.
Cyclone Pam also caused damage to other islands includingSolomonIslands,TuvaluandKiribati. Flash floods caused by heavy rainfall and storm surge affected theislandofTuvalucausing significant damage to infrastructure and agriculture. A state of emergency has also been declared on this island nation.New Caledonia,Fijiand NewZealandwere also in the path of cyclone Pam. 30,000 people are believed to have been affected on these islands.
Cyclone Pam formed on 6th March, gradually intensifying to a tropical depression on 8th March and gaining cyclone status on 9thMarch. On 10th March Pam further intensified into a Category 3 cyclone and on 12th March it became an intense Category 5 storm with maximum wind speed of 270 km/h (165mph) and lowest recorded pressure of 896 mbar. Cyclone Pam remained a Category 5 cyclone for 36 hours and struck Vanuatu as a Category 5 storm. Pam weakened to a Category 4 on 15thMarch and further weakened to an extratropical storm on 16th March.