21 Mar 2015

Storm aftermath like 'napalm'

1:17 pm on 21 March 2015

Koroi Hawkins is travelling on a Vanuatu government barge carrying fresh water, food and medical supplies desperately needed by the people of Mataso, which lies to the north of Port Vila. A doctor is on board.

Follow Koroi Hawkins live tweets from Vanuatu

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

The aid shipment was too late for one woman who died from her injuries just two days earlier. The death toll from the cyclone in Mataso is three.

Koroi Hawkins said the fact that one of the victims died only two days ago is a sign that aid needs to arrive faster The survivors are desperate for food and fresh water. The island has no fresh water source he said.

A major drive to distribute aid throughout Vanuatu's cyclone-ravaged islands, started today.

Volunteers load 50 25kg bags of rice, ready to deliver to the Shepherd Islands.

Volunteers load 50 25kg bags of rice, ready to deliver to the Shepherd Islands. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

A government official, Benjamin Shing, said water and health supplies had already been distributed, and other supplies such as shelter can now go out.

Mr Shing said the neediest areas would get aid first, with the distribution of food based on carefully acquired knowledge of the needs of each area

He said health, sanitation, food and agriculture needs will be addressed.

Delays in the response to the disaster have been criticised, but the Vanuatu government said it had needed time to properly assess the situation.

Vanuatu Prime Minister Joe Natuman

Vanuatu Prime Minister Joe Natuman Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Prime minister Joe Natuman said the delays were essential to avoid duplication of resources, and to co-ordinate the efforts of aid agencies.

He said 165,000 people are thought to have been affected by the category 5 cyclone.

The government has also agreed to buy rice, noodles, tinned meats and fish, as well as crop seedlings.

A New Zealand doctor in Vanuatu, Tony Diprose, said the cyclone has devastated crops throughout the country.

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

He said Cyclone Pam had destroyed many food sources, so providing food relief was now a huge priority.

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