21 Mar 2015

First aid gets to Pam survivors on Vanuatu outer island

3:55 pm on 21 March 2015

The first aid shipment has just arrived at a tiny Vanuatu island devastated by cyclone Pam but it was too late for one woman who had died from her injuries two days earlier.

A Vanuatu government barge has delivered fresh water, medical supplies and food for the people of Mataso, to the north of Port Vila.

Our reporter, Koroi Hawkins, is travelling on the barge and says it looks like a napalm bomb has gone off on Mataso.

He says the houses are flattened, trees have been stripped of their leaves and everything looks brown and dead.

He says the fact that one of the victims died only yesterday is a sign that aid needs to arrive faster.

The survivors are desperate for food and fresh water.

A New Zealand doctor who's now in Vanuatu says the cyclone has devastated crops throughout the country.

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Photo: AFP

Tony Diprose is part of a team that arrived last weekend to assess what aid New Zealand needs to send.

He says Pam has destroyed many food sources, so providing food relief is now a huge priority.

"All of the root crops such a manioc and casava have all been spoiled in the ground all the fruit that grows on trees has been knocked off and scattered."

Agencies believe relief operation will last months

International humanitarian agencies in Vanuatu are preparing for a relief operation lasting several months as post cyclone Pam aid begins to arrive.

Vanuatu's government is co-ordinating relief efforts attempting to get immediate aid to more that 60 inhabited remote islands along the archipelago.

The head of the United Nations disaster assessment and co-pordination team, Sebastian Rhode-Stamper, says there are a number of people who urgently need food and water supplies and help to rebuild shelter.

"This is not something that's going to go away this is something that's going to get more and more severe, the longer it takes to reach them, on the good side and plus side, the government's doing a fantastic job in assessing what the needs are, they've already started moving food, water shelter and medicine down to the worst affected areas."

Water supplied in Vanuatu aid effort

Water supplied in Vanuatu aid effort after Cyclone Pam Photo: AFP / UNICEF PACIFIC

Mobile phone service almost back to normal

80 per cent of Vanuatu's mobile network, Digicel, has been restored after the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam.

The network was reconnected on Friday for residents of the northern Islands, including Efate.

However, a Digicel customer care person, Joyce Ovarahu, says service is yet to resume in the badly hit south.

"The only islands in the south including the main island, Tanna, which was badly damaged, those are the islands where we have work going on now, and our team is there working very hard."

Domestic radio services are also being restored, with Radio Vanuatu's shortwave service resuming service.

New Caledonia pauses aid collection

The Red Cross in New Caledonia has requested a pause in clothing donations for victims of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu.

This is to give the organisation time to sort and package the 20 tonnes of clothing collected in just three days.

The president of the Red Cross in New Caledonia, Jacqueline Johnston, says the organisation has been overwhelmed by the generosity of New Caledonians.

"Now we have tonnes and tonnes of donations. Within three days we had 20 tonnes of clothing delivered to us by the population of New Caledonia".

Jacqueline Johnston says New Caledonia has very close ties with Vanuatu, its sister country, and the response has been fantastic.

"But because we are getting so much from the population, I am going to Vanuatu tomorrow for 24 hours to find out, on-site, exactly what they need."

The Red Cross is still encouraging people to give money, food and building materials as the relief effort continues.

Tahiti annuls relief flight, opts for shipping

The French Polynesian government has called off tomorrow's planned aid flight for victims of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu.

An Air Tahiti Nui plane was scheduled to carry 50 tonnes of supplies, including 30 tonnes of water, to New Caledonia.

However, the government says the transport of the donated goods by boat from Noumea to Port Vila could not be assured.

It says instead it considered it to be better option to load all aid onto a ship which will sail from Tahiti on Monday night.

So far, four containers are ready and two more are expected to be filled before the boat's departure.

It says another ship is bound for Port Vila on March the 31st and could carry more relief supplies if necessary.

French Polynesia sends supplies to Vanuatu's victims of Cyclone Pam

French Polynesia sends supplies to Vanuatu's victims of Cyclone Pam Photo: supplied