Cyclone Pam bears down on Vanuatu

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 12 Mar 2015

Oxfam is on standby to respond to Cyclone Pam, as latest forecasts predict the storm will pass close to Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila, the city recently named as the most exposed to natural disasters in the world.

Oxfam’s Executive Director Helen Szoke said if the cyclone followed its current predicted path, the results could be devastating for Vanuatu.

“Even if the Cyclone Pam does not strike the city directly there is potential for major damage,” Dr Szoke said.

“Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies are ready to respond with emergency stocks available to be moved into stricken areas if required,” Dr Szoke said.

Vanuatu Country Director Colin Collett van Rooyen said gale force winds were forecast for all provinces of Vanuatu over the next 36 hours, but the area of greatest concern was for the SHEFA province in the country’s south, where the capital is located, and TAFEA province in the far south.

“Cyclone Pam is now forecast to pass close by Port Vila and the SHEFA Province on Friday night as a category 5 storm, which means we could see winds speeds of more than 280km/h,” Mr Collett van Rooyen said.

“Port Vila was recently named in the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas and is known as the city most exposed to natural disasters in the world because it faces a combination of risks including earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and tropical cyclones such as Cyclone Pam.

“The SHEFA Province has a population of around 80,000 people and TAFEA a further 32,000. If the current path predictions are correct the impact on these people could be severe.”

Oxfam is leading the coordination of the Vanuatu Humanitarian Team, a network of non-government humanitarian agencies, in preparing for the storm, and will also support any response effort, working alongside the Vanuatu Government. Residents on remote islands have been alerted to the storm by text messages sent by Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office.

For interviews, including from Oxfam’s staff on the ground or more information, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428 367 318 or