Australia offers help to Vanuatu. Strong winds still prevents the authorities from confirming the number of deaths and cost of damage.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that Canberra was ready to assist, and had medical and search and rescue staff on standby while New Zealand immediately announced NZ$1 million in an initial funds to assist Vanuatu, Fiji, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands.
Aid agencies have launched appeals and are hoping to start flying in emergency supplies of food, shelter and medicine from Sunday, when the airport in Port Vila is expected to reopen.
“We are extremely concerned for the safety and wellbeing of tens of thousands of people as one of the most intense cyclones to ever hit any Pacific country continues to batter Vanuatu,” said Australian Red Cross’ head of international programmes Peter Walton.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, speaking from Japan, said while the impact was not yet clear “we fear the destruction and damage would be widespread” as he offered his deepest condolences to the people of Vanuatu.
Fiji Weather Service meteorologist Neville Koop said the cyclone was weakening as it slowly moved away from Vanuatu, and would pass between Fiji and New Caledonia before brushing the North Island of New Zealand on Monday.
Koop said Pam was not the strongest cyclone for the South Pacific, with Zoe packing bigger winds when it hit Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands in 2002. But he said the current storm had gusts of 320 kilometres per hour and sustained winds of 250 kilometres per hour.