It’s hurricane season in the South Pacific. Islands in New Zealand experienced the high winds and heavy rain of the category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam. The storm raged through the country of Vanuatu and Tuvula on Friday, ripping homes apart and leaving at least 44 dead according to the UN Office of Humanitarian Assistance, though the total number of fatalities is not yet clear.
“While it is too early to say for certain, early reports are indicating that this weather disaster could potentially be one of the worst in Pacific history,” UNICEF New Zealand’s executive director Vivien Maidaborn mentioned in a statement.
With the rise in severity of tropical storms and hurricanes internationally, Maidaborn continued by expressing her concern due to the lack of emergency infrastructure that offer space for evacuation on the islands, not to mention on the small islands that may have even less resources. With approximately 264,000 individuals in the storm’s disaster zone the potential destruction is terrifying. Many of the evacuation shelters were allegedly destroyed on Friday, leaving people no shelter from the winds that pummeled through the islands at almost 200mph.
Because of limited communication to the islands, it is unclear what the entire picture is. Photos are trickling through revealing a more and more dismal scene. Trees are down, along with power lines and destroyed houses across the 83 islands of the country, 65 of which are inhabited according to CNN. UNICEF has launched a campaign in the aftermath and the Australian Red Cross is providing aid.
The airport in Port Vila is destroyed, so emergency rescue teams are the only people accessing the islands as of yet. With the dissemination of the winds, further destruction from this storm is not likely. UNICEF spokeswoman Alice Clement fared the storm describing it as “15-30 minutes of absolute terror,” but the reconstruction is looking like it will take much longer.