Oxfam is now preparing to respond to Cyclone Pam as it begins to tear through Vanuatu, after it unexpectedly veered west at the last minute, placing a number of Vanuatu’s islands directly in the eye of the devastating storm.
With wind gusts of up to 340kmh the severe tropical cyclone has may have already passed through islands including Maewo, Ambae and Pentecost which combined have a population of nearly 30,000 people.
Cyclone Pam is now heading towards the highly populated island of Efate, which includes the Vanuatu capital Port Vila, and is due to hit there between 10pm and midnight tonight. More than 65,000 people live on this island alone. It is then likely to continue on its path through the southern islands, where more than 30,000 people live.
Oxfam’s Executive Director Helen Szoke said depending on how many people evacuated the cyclone could be devastating for Vanuatu.
“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 warnings had been issued for high seas, coastal flooding and destructive winds. He said there were also major concerns for the health system, with the hospital in Port Vila prone to flash flooding in much less severe conditions.
“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,” Mr Collett van Rooyen said.
“Oxfam is leading the coordination of the Vanuatu Humanitarian Team, a network of non-government humanitarian agencies, in preparing for the storm, and we will also support any response effort, working alongside the Vanuatu Government.
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