Hospital, morgue and schools all damaged by Cyclone Pam as help begins to arrive

Oxfam's 10 people team in Vanuatu are reporting damage to major infrastructure like the hospital, the morgue and schools as the picture of complete devastation in Vanuatu now begins to unfold. 

Oxfam Country Director in Port Vila, Colin Collet van Rooyen, said the damage to things as important as the morgue, the hospital and schools could create major problems in the coming days that would compound the devastation left by Cyclone Pam.

“At least 90 percent of housing here in Port Vila has 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,” Mr. Collett van Rooyen said.

“Clean water, sanitation and hygiene supplies are also a major issue for those left homeless and also those in evacuation centres, where there simply are not enough toilets or clean water for the amount of people in those facilities.

“With extra help arriving on the Australian Government plane today we now have a team of 10 people working on this emergency response, and there is a lot off work to be done,” he said.

“The scenes we are seeing today are just devastating with entire communities gone.”

Mr. Collett van Rooyen said the AUS$5m aid package announced by the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would play an important role in the response.

Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said, "It’s becoming increasingly clear that we are now dealing with worse than the worst case scenario in Vanuatu,".  "This is likely to be one of the worst disasters ever seen in the Pacific.”

Cyclone Pam made a direct hit on Vanuatu on Friday night, tearing through the archipelago with winds of up to 250kmh.

With more than 250,000 people at risk from the severe tropical cyclone there is real concern of a potentially high death toll and of enormous destruction, particularly given the traditional housing that is so prevalent through the islands. Byanyima said grave fears were held for those people on the outer islands with little or no protection from the 155mph winds.

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.

Contact information

Angus Hohenboken, Medial coordinator, +61 (0) 428 367 318, angush@oxfam.org.au

For updates, please follow @Oxfam, or Oxfam Country Director in Vanuatu @Colincvr.