March 15, 2015

ADRA Springs Into Action After Cyclone Devastates Vanuatu

ADRA workers scattered across the capital of the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu to assess residents’ needs after a powerful cyclone ripped through the islands, killing at least eight people.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency was preparing to distribute emergency kits containing soap, water filtration kits, and collapsible water containers from three warehouses at various sites on the archipelago — even as it sought to restore contact with 10 missing staff members.

“Ensuring safe drinking water, sufficient nourishment, especially for mothers and babies, will be a priority,” Mark le Roux, the country director ADRA, said in a telephone interview with
The New York Times.

He told the BBC that conditions in Port Vila were "pretty grim."

"We have 20 evacuation centers with about 2,000 people in them, some of our evacuation centers have up to 300 people sharing one toilet," he said.

Tropical Cyclone Pam, with heavy rain and winds of up to 170 miles per hour (270 kilometers per hour), veered off its projected course and slammed into Vanuatu’s capital, Port Villa, and other populated areas on Saturday, March 14.

The extent of the damages will not be known for several days, but the country’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, has appealed already for international aid.

Local authorities have confirmed eight deaths. Dozens more people are feared dead in remote areas where communication links were severed by the cyclone.

A Vanuatu family salvaging belongings from their home on March 14. Video from ADRA.
Watch another ADRA video.

Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 living on 65 islands, including 47,000 people in Port Vila.

ADRA’s local workers traveled around Port Vila to check on conditions Saturday and found that toppled trees and power lines blocked the main roads. Many houses appeared to be destroyed, including several that had withstood two previous cyclones. Exhausted families who had ridden out the cyclone in storm shelters were seen trying to salvage belongings.

“Families are trying to gather as much as they can,” le Roux said in a statement e-mailed to the
Adventist Review. “Even sturdy houses didn’t make it. Walls and roofs came down.”

ADRA was trying to re-establish contact with five of its workers in the island of Pentecost and five others on the island of Malakula. Downed cellular networks were complicating efforts.

Vanuatu has been a beehive of Adventist activity over the past year. Two major evangelistic series were held in Port Vila, resulting
in 2,213 baptisms in September and 543 baptisms in December.

ADRA International has set up an emergency response fund to help the people of Vanuatu. Canadian readers can contribute here.