Vanuatu struggles to account for cyclone damage, deaths

Vanuatu's president said the cyclone that hammered the tiny South Pacific archipelago was a "monster" that has destroyed or damaged 90 percent of the buildings in the capital Port Vila and has forced the nation to start anew.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Vanuatu’s president said the cyclone that hammered the tiny South Pacific archipelago was a “monster” that has destroyed or damaged 90 percent of the buildings in the capital Port Vila and has forced the nation to start anew.

Looking weary and red-eyed, Baldwin Lonsdale said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press that the latest information he has is that six people are confirmed dead and 30 injured from Cyclone Pam. Lonsdale was interviewed in Sendai, northeastern Japan, where he had been attending a disaster conference when the cyclone struck.

He appealed for international aid for the place he calls “paradise.”

“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.”

The president said because of the break in communications, even he could not reach his family. “We do not know if our families are safe or not. As the leader of the nation, my whole heart is for the people, the nation.”

Lonsdale and other top Vanuatu government officials were preparing to return home later Monday from Sendai.

Officials in Vanuatu had still not made contact with outlying islands and were struggling to determine the scale of devastation from the cyclone, which tore through early Saturday, packing winds of 270 kilometers (168 miles) per hour.

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