‘Monster’ cyclone strikes a heavy toll on Vanuatu

Young children move around debris as residents work to recover from Cyclone Pam in Mele village, on the outskirts of the capital Port Vila, Vanuatu, March 15, 2015. (PHOTO: ABC)

VANUATU (ABC/AP) – More than 100,000 people are likely homeless, schools have been destroyed, and communication systems remain cut off in the Pacific country of Vanuatu, after the archipelago was slammed by a powerful cyclone.

President Baldwin Lonsdale told the Associated Press Monday that the cyclone was a “monster.” Lonsdale, who had been attending a disaster conference in Japan, appealed for international aid.

“This is a very devastating cyclone in Vanuatu. I term it as a monster, a monster,” he said. “It’s a setback for the government and for the people of Vanuatu. After all the development that has taken place, all this development has been wiped out.”

Photos: Cyclone Pam storms across Vanuatu

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At least six people have died, but responders with Oxfam Humanitarian Emergency in Australia – who are flying to Vanuatu for relief efforts – expect that number to significantly climb.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Helen Szoke discussed the scale of the impact in a statement.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that we are now dealing with worse than the worst case scenario in Vanuatu,” Szoke said.

Video and surveillance images show uprooted trees and flooded fields as residents await disaster relief supplies.

PHOTO: Residents work to recover from Cyclone Pam in Mele village, on the outskirts of the capital Port Vila, Vanuatu, March 15, 2015.
PHOTO: Residents work to recover from Cyclone Pam in Mele village, on the outskirts of the capital Port Vila, Vanuatu, March 15, 2015.

At least half of the population, or about 130,000 people, has been affected, according to the Vanuatu Red Cross Society. UNICEF estimates that at least 60,000 children across the country in the South Pacific Ocean could be at risk.

Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 people spread over 65 islands. About 47,000 people live in the capital of Port Vila.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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