ABC Reports Click on Earth to see Cyclone Pam
Flooding, destructive winds as category five storm bears down on Vanuatu
Updated 20 minutes ago
Speaking from a hotel shelter, program director for CARE Australia in Vanuatu, Inga Mepham, told the ABC’s World program that people have heeded warnings to take shelter.
“It’s a thundery noise coming through and obviously things are starting to fly around. We can feel things hitting us at different times,” she said on Friday.
“I think people would still be in disbelief tonight … certainly we are.”
In Fiji, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the Pacific, Sune Gudnitz, said the storm was the “worst-case scenario”.
“The most vulnerable will certainly be the people who are living or residing closer to the coastline, which in a place like Vanuatu is a lot of people,” he said.
“Very few structures I think will be able to withstand a category five cyclone of the magnitude that we are seeing.
“So we are looking at potentially total destruction of many shelters, residences, especially in the islands south and outside of Port Vila.”
Vanuatu’s northern islands were the first to feel the destructive force of Pam, the strongest storm to hit the nation of 270,000 people in nearly 30 years.
Aid agencies said many people living in flimsy slum accommodation were particularly at risk, as well as those in remote outlying islands.
Authorities in Vanuatu issued red alerts for four provinces, advising thousands of residents to shelter in evacuation centres ahead of the storm.
UNICEF spokeswoman Alice Clements said the capital resembled a “ghost town” as people battened down.
“The winds have definitely increased, the palm trees are blowing around like crazy, you’re starting to get that kind of howling wind coming through,” the official with the UN children’s agency said.
Meteorologist Neville Koop, from Fiji’s Nadraki Weather Service, said Pam’s winds were capable of bringing down even well-built structures.
He said they could be more destructive than Cyclone Uma, which killed at least 30 people when it sank two ferries off Port Vila.
“Pam has winds which are much stronger than Vanuatu experienced (in 1987)”, he said.
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