Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu last week bringing wind gusts topping 300 kilometres per hour, torrential rain, huge seas and storm surges. Cyclone Pam is regarded as the worst natural disaster in the history of Vanuatu. Relief agencies said conditions were among the most challenging they have faced, with concerns that the official death toll of 11 confirmed fatalities will rise once officials reach all of the nation's 65 inhabited islands to inspect the damage. This makes Pam the deadliest cyclone in the South Pacific basin since, at least, Cyclone Evan in 2012 which killed 14 people in Samoa. The storm's impacts were also felt, albeit to a lesser extent, on other islands in the South Pacific, most notably the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and New Zealand.
RescueNet went on ‘Alert’ Friday, 13th of March, monitoring the progress of the cyclone and as news came in we prepared ourselves for a possible deployment. After receiving conflicting reports from news outlets and people we know in Vanuatu, it became clear by the 15th that the damage was severe and the President of Vanuatu had called for international aid. In response to this, RescueNet decided to send out an Advance Team to assess the situation and put the rest of the RN team on ‘Standby’, ready to deploy at any moment.
By the 16th of March the airports in Vanuatu opened up and the Advance Team, made up of the Deployment leader and two other members, flew into Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, on the 17th. That was a miracle in itself as their original flight had been canceled. Another flight suddenly opened up and their baggage fees, over $800, were completely waived! By this time it became clear that RescueNet would be deploying and arrangements were made for a secondary team to join them as soon as possible. Our team is working in conjunction with Marine Reach and a team of doctors known to our contacts in the region.
On the 18th of March the Advance Team met at the UN Head Quarters in Port Vila. The team received a lot of favour among the lead NGOs and with government officials in Port Vila. Initially they were standing at the back of the room in the UN meetings, but then they were invited up to the front table. Later they were waiting for the next steps of a plan when they were invited into the office of the Director of the National Disaster Management Office, the person overseeing the national disaster coordination system. Their meeting was very open and amicable and they were given grace and assistance with the government approval process for going out into the outlying areas. They still have copious paperwork to complete as the government is thoroughly researching each group offering aid in order to sift out fraudulent organizations. This meeting was “out of the blue” and not planned, but has opened the doors for the team in major ways!
RescueNet’s Secondary Team, together with a group of doctors flying in from Fiji, arrived in Port Vila today. Unfortunately several bags were lost in transit including those that were carrying important equipment for the team. Pease pray that these bags are located and get to the team as soon as possible! Once their gear arrives they will be able to move out to their assigned region, which is the island of Tanna in the south.
Continue to keep our team in prayer over the next few days as they travel to more remote areas and ‘set up camp’. We will keep you informed with any updates and will soon be posting direct reports from our people on the field.
If you would like to make a donation to the relief efforts please go to:
Please include a memo that is it for the Vanuatu Deployment.
On behalf of the Team - thank you!