18 Mar 2015

Cyclone Pam - 'it's a monster'

6:27 am on 18 March 2015

People in Port Vila are beginning the huge task of repairing and rebuilding after the widespread destruction brought by Cyclone Pam.

Port Vila wreckage

There is wreckage all over Port Vila. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Many businesses in the commercial centre of Vanuatu's capital have been wiped out.

Yesterday, for the first time since the storm, Estella Collins and her family went to see where their waterfront market stall once stood.

Largely all that is left is the concrete floor. It is hard to even get a sense of what was once there.

Following the storm, Esther Collins' stall is no longer there.

Following the storm, Esther Collins' stall is no longer there. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

"Every time when we have a cyclone, it never happens like this. Never," she said.

"We have cyclones every time, but this is the first time that it happens like this. We've had cyclones, but it's never washed our markets upshore - no, never."

Anna George's stall is some distance away but did not escape the violent sea surges, and she will not be able to sell anything for weeks.

"We don't know - we don't know how we'll get money, get the kids going to school, get our food. This storm - they call it a devil, a monster. Yes, it's a monster. It's one of the worst. Strong."

She has lost more of her goods to looters, who cut off the locks protecting what she had left to sell.

The air in Port Vila is becoming thick with smoke as people start burning off the endless broken trees.

Vanuatu storm

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

When large planes are heard overhead, people look to the sky to see where it came from, or where it could be going.

David Colbert was one of just 32 passengers on the first flight Air New Zealand made into Port Vila since Cyclone Pam.

He said many buildings had lost roofs or were flattened, but having been there for three days cleaning up, the place did not look as bad as he thought it could. "There are a lot of buildings which still look intact, which is very good to see."

In the commercial centre, however, almost all buildings have sustained some damage.

Wreckage along the waterfront

Wreckage along the waterfront Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Nancy Miyake is working to repair her waterfront cafe which has only its outer shell intact.

"Everyone's house in some way has been damaged or they know somebody whose house has been damaged," she said.

"But everyone just picks up, puts all their stuff back together, and rallies."