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A scene of the destruction in Vanuatu. (Photo: 350 Pacific/flickr/cc)

Aid Groups Arrive in Vanuatu, Assessing Devastation from Cyclone's 'Full Fury'

Homes are badly damaged, children are afraid, and many villages are without water, early reports indicate

Deirdre Fulton

As news from the cyclone-stricken island nation of Vanuatu began to trickle in on Sunday, the devastation left in the wake of Cyclone Pam—one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall—started to become clear.

A state of emergency has been declared in the tiny state of 267,000 people, spread over 65 islands in the South Pacific, which was hit Friday and Saturday by a Category 5 cyclone. There are eight confirmed deaths so far, with that number expected to rise as aid groups arrive and communication is restored.

Oxfam Australia said that at least 90 percent of the housing in Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila had been "badly damaged."

"The kids have nowhere to go to school, there is no power at the hospital which has also flooded in parts and damage to the state mortuary means we need a temporary mortuary set up quickly," added Oxfam country director in Port Vila, Colin Collet van Rooyen.

The international aid agency Save the Children reported that at least 75,000 youth had been affected by the storm.

"This disaster has left tens of thousands of children vulnerable and we are particularly concerned for their welfare and safety in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam," said Save the Children's Tom Skirrow. "Children are going to be very afraid, they are going to be hungry and some of them may even have become separated from their families."

The Guardian warned of "dire water shortages" on the horizon:

A pilot who flew to Tanna – an island of 30,000 people south of the capital, Port Vila – on Sunday has reported more bodies and said there was no drinking water while the island's infrastructure and permanent shelters were completely destroyed.

"As feared, the center of Pam tracked further west than what was originally forecast, bringing the full fury of this Category 5 cyclone's eyewall to the most populated areas of Vanuatu, including its capital, Port Vila," said Weather.com meteorologist Jon Erdman. "Severe storm surge flooding has occurred in vulnerable coastal areas. The extreme winds destroyed poorly-constructed structures and damaged others. Torrential rainfall triggered flash flooding and may trigger landslides."

According to 350 Pacific, which has a team on the ground in Vanuatu, Cyclone Pam caused "unprecedented damage to the country’s subsistence agricultural sector," destroying food crops, killing livestock, and stripping fruit trees.

The disaster "has once more raised concerns about the readiness of Pacific island nations to respond to severe weather events exacerbated by rising temperatures and sea levels," Jessica Mendoza wrote in the Christian Science Monitor

For those who wish to donate toward relief efforts, CNN compiled a list of aid groups "poised and ready to start helping once it is safe to do so."


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