Vanuatu Suffers Cyclone Pam.
Pam, the strongest cyclone (hurricane) to hit Vanuatu since the terrible Zoe in 2002, actually had stronger force when it hit the dead centre of the country yesterday. With gusts of 320km/hour (200mph), the winds were measured at a steady 250km/hour (155mph.) As the maximum category 5 storm, this is far higher than Zoe, the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. People across the hurricane and cyclone zones need to note that this increase in storm intensities is very linked to global warming and will continue to worsen, according to all projections! The idea that at least half of all of these extreme events are down to climate change is really terrifying.
There were no deaths from Zoe, according to journalists, but islands in the Solomons were totally destroyed, inhabitants gaining shelter from useful caves. For Vanuatu, concrete buildings such as churches were some of the better shelters. In this disaster, which hit the nations capital, Port Vila, directly and also wrecked several northern islands, fatalities have already been recorded. 8 were killed, according to immediate phone reports from the local Save The Children Director and the capitals hospital and paramedic services, but 44 dead were feared by the UN humanitarian affairs office, causing Ban Ki-Moon to comment that the damage and destruction could be widespread. The Australian Red Cross mention unbelievable destruction.
Closer to the problem, the President, Baldwin Lonsdale, was very emotional as he appealed for help for his beleaguered capital. These islands of Oceania can be very low. They have frequently appealed against carbon emissions, because of rising sea-levels, and we know that Zoe caused 12m (39 feet) waves over the coastal towns and villages. Destruction in the capital is apparently severe, with other areas having being totally destroyed by flood and de-roofing, uprooted trees and minimal communications. Food water and shelter will be Injuries and fatalities from the southern islands cannot yet be known because of this communication problem with only one New Zealand aircraft scanning the debris for survivors and those needing rapid assistance, if that is possible.
The eye of the storm was forecast to hit near the capital but in fact actually created 15-30 minutes of pure havoc, directly on the coastal city as it passed. 7 hours of growling winds followed. Howling with an unearthly deep roar, the winds would easily cause the death of anybody exposed or uncovered by the storm. Some reports mention caves, but of course most would have man-made shelters that would have to survive the unexpected ferocity. Homes themselves have been
Cyclone Pam has affected Fiji, Tuvalu and the Solomons, as well as scoring this direct hit on Vanuatu. We can but hope the storms of the future dont achieve higher levels of force. As news gathers, this is a BBC site that will keep you up-to-date.