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"Like a monster waking up and shaking our house"

Jack sheltered his 30 of his neighbours in his home when Cyclone Pam hit. Most of them have nothing left now.

When Cyclone Pam made landfall on the archipelago of Vanuatu, the night was dark and sombre. It took only a few hours before the wind was frenetically shaking houses and trees, destroying everything in its path.

What usually looks like a lush green tropical Pacific island now looks barren and brown. Trees have been stripped of their leaves, and most of the houses which are still standing have lost their roofs. Those that were not built with concrete have almost all disappeared, as if they had never existed. Houses across Port Vila are flattened and even concrete structures are damaged.

"It was very scary. This is the strongest cyclone I have experienced in my life" says resident Jack Kalo. "I even asked my mother if she had ever seen something like that. She said no, not even cyclone Uma." (Cyclone Uma killed 50 people when it struck Vanuatu in 1987.)

The water supply which was disrupted by Cyclone Pam, is now restored in the capital, but there is still no electricity and the communication network is still very problematic. The biggest problem now is access to food: all the crops and gardens are destroyed, leaving people with the only option of buying their food, which will inevitably result in dramatic price increases.

For now Jack will have to do with what he has until he can find a longer-term solution to provide food for his family. But his family also has to face the psychological trauma of experiencing the fury of Pam.

"The wind was howling outside and my children were screaming inside. It was like a monster waking up and shaking our house," said Jack.

Jack's children were terrified by the 'monster' wind shrieking outside.

Jack's house is partially made of concrete. It is the only reason why it is still up. Thirty people took refuge in his house, including his three daughters, his wife, two brothers and two sisters. His neighbours were not as fortunate, as they have lost everything they owned, all blown away by the vicious winds.

While the first assessments report that more than half of the population of the country is directly affected by the cyclone, life is already taking over in the streets of Port Vila. People are already cleaning the streets, saving what can be rescued and starting to rebuild their homes.

Story and photos: Hanna Butler/IFRC/New Zealand Red Cross