Thursday, March 19, 2015

Vanuatu provides lessons in cyclone survival

Stephen Coates in Reuters: Villagers in Vanuatu buried food and fresh water as one of the strongest storms on record bore down on them, fleeing to churches, schools and even coconut drying kilns as 300 kph winds and massive seas tore their flimsy houses to the ground.

Despite reports of utter devastation six days after Cyclone Pam pummeled the impoverished South Pacific island nation, Vanuatu appears to be providing something of a lesson in how to survive a category 5 storm. The United Nations says the official death toll is 11 and Prime Minister Joe Natuman told Reuters it would not rise significantly.

"The important thing is that the people survived," he said in an interview outside his office overlooking the hard-hit capital of Port Vila. "If the people survived, we can rebuild."

...Two days ago, a helicopter flight over the north of Efate revealed scenes of total devastation with at least one coastal village destroyed and no sign of life.  When visited a day later, dozens of villagers were back rebuilding with what materials they could find and reporting only one injury, said Barnes, who was on Cayman Island in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan hit.

Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, disaster co-ordinator for the U.N.'s humanitarian affairs office said he was impressed by the country's ability to deal with the storm. "In very few places that I have worked have I seen such a resilient population," Rhodes Stampa, who has worked in major disaster sites including the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, told Reuters in Port Vila....

The Mamas Market in Port Vila, Vanuatu, on March 15, 2015. Shot by Graham Crumb, Wikimedia Commons via imagicity, under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence 

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