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Vanuatu: "The damage is enormous and our people need help"

More than 100 Red Cross staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to provide aid and healthcare in Vanuatu, after Cyclone Pam left a trail of devastation over the weekend.

Monday March 16, 2015

Port Vila residents assess the damage to their homes and neighbourhoods. Photo: Chris McCowage.

Reports today confirm that the Category Five storm has left thousands in need of shelter, food, and water.

In Port Vila, Vanuatu Red Cross volunteers are working alongside the authorities to assist in 26 evacuation centres.

"Homes have been lost, crops are destroyed. The damage is enormous, and people need our help," said Aurélia Balpe from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "Yet it will still take some time before we really understand the full extent of the damage."

Vanuatu Red Cross made a breakthrough in communication by connecting with the Torres Islands and the southern Island of Tanna - where Cyclone Pam made its first landfall. While the Torres Islands were spared the worst, Tanna was not as fortunate.

"The island is simply flattened. Schools and concrete homes across Tanna are destroyed," said Peter Lawther, a Red Cross shelter specialist. "Shelter, along with water and food, remain a top priority. We are working on getting help here as quickly as possible."

Red Cross is coordinating with authorities and other agencies to distribute hygiene kits, tarpaulins, blankets, water containers, shelter kits, sleeping mats, kitchen sets, buckets and aqua tabs that arrived on 15 March. Additional relief items are expected in the early morning of 16 March from Australia and New Zealand.

Red Cross is also deploying health workers, disaster specialists, and water and sanitation experts across Vanuatu and the wider region.

"Red Cross has a strong global network, and we have a lot of experience in responding to disasters such as Cyclone Pam," Balpe continues. "As always, we will do our best to meet the needs of everyone affected. We may not know everything now, but we will prepare for the worst".

Here in Australia, Red Cross has launched the Cyclone Pam (Vanuatu) 2015 Appeal to provide humanitarian support to people affected. You can help: please donate now.