At Least Eight Dead as Pam Devastates Vanuatu
At least eight people have been killed as reports of mass destruction and devastation have emerged from the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu following a direct hit from Cyclone Pam on Saturday.
Officials fear dozens more may have died in the storm, which made a direct hit on Vanuatu (population 267,000) with winds equivalent to that of a Category 5 hurricane.
“(Vanuatu’s capital city) Port Vila looks like an absolute bomb has hit it,” World Vision emergency specialist Chloe Morrison told CNN.
The storm hit the Vanuatu island of Efate, home to Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital and largest city, overnight Friday into Saturday local time, lashing the island with winds that were estimated at 170 miles-an-hour and nine inches of rain. Widespread destruction is being reported across the archipelago nation, and CNN reported that only one cell phone tower remained standing after the storm.
Vanuatu is under a state of emergency and the country’s president has called for international assistance following the storm, according to the BBC.
The track of the storm veered further west than mid-week forecasts from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), who predicted the eye of the cyclone would pass east of the island chain, but it appears to have made a direct hit on Vanuatu.
Cyclone season in the southwest Pacific runs from November through April, making Pam a late season storm and one of the strongest on record. Mashable reports that sea-surface temperatures near Vanuatu are unusually high, likely helping fuel the massive storm.
Pam is weakening and is expected to continue to do so as it moves south into colder waters of the south Pacific, although it may eventually bring strong winds and rain to New Zealand’s North Island.
Meteorologist Chris Bianchi
Photo: UNICEF Pacific