Emergency Response to Tropical Cyclone Pam

19th March 2015

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(Samaritan’s Purse is not responding to this emergency from the UK at this time, we are therefore not receiving donations towards it. However, if you would like to support our ongoing Disaster Relief work, you can make a donation to our International Disaster Relief Fund. Thank you.

Tropical Cyclone Pam, a massive storm with winds up to 185 mph and torrential rain, battered the nation of Vanuatu on Friday, causing “complete devastation” to the island chain in the South Pacific.

Samaritan’s Purse responded by sending a multinational team of disaster response experts from our international headquarters in the United States and our offices in Australia, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Over 70 tonnes of supplies are on the way. We will be meeting emergency needs for thousands of storm victims by providing relief items such as shelter materials, clean water supplies, and cooking kits. Our teams work in the Name of Jesus, ministering to those who are suffering and reaching out with care and compassion.

We are also sending a medical team of two doctors and four nurses with supplies. The hospital in Port Vila was overwhelmed with patients, and some beds were moved outside due to fears the building is no longer safe. Our team will be meeting critical needs by doing mobile medical care.

Our team arrived in Port Vila, the capital of the impoverished nation, on Sunday.

“What we’re seeing is what you’d see after a major disaster,” said Patrick Seger, leader of the response. “Food crops have been destroyed, fruit trees have been stripped off, pigs and chickens were swept away. They’re saying people will be without food for months.”

As our team members are out assessing the damage and determining where our help is most needed, they are meeting storm victims like Kathleen Roroman, a 35-year-old mother of four children (ages 10, 9, 6, and 7 months).

Kathleen said she was at home with her husband when the storm hit. Their home was entirely destroyed. The parents held the children to keep them from blowing away. They were hit directly by the rain and cold winds, and the children are now sick from the exposure.

The Roroman family is now living with about 70 others at the nearby Agriculture Department office building. One of the large meeting rooms was emptied so this small community could sleep on the floor.

The category 5 storm—the strongest to reach landfall since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in November 2013—thrashed the islands of Vanuatu for most of a 24-hour period between Friday and Saturday.

“(There’s) devastation as far as the eye can see,” a Samaritan’s Purse ministry partner in Vanuatu said.

At least 11 people were killed, according to news reports, and officials fear many more fatalities.

In Port Vila, up to 90 percent of the houses were destroyed, trees and power lines were downed, and people were wandering the streets looking for help. There are reports of entire villages in remote areas being destroyed.

“The electricity is out, the communications are down, the buildings are flattened, and people are in dire need,” said Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Programmes and Government Relations for Samaritan’s Purse. “One of the biggest concerns is that it’s a chain of islands and there are only airports in Port Vila and another island to the south called Tanna. The other smaller islands, we really don’t know yet. But we expect that the needs will be for shelter, clean water, medical treatment, and non-food items such as hygiene supplies and blankets.”

Located about a quarter of the way from Australia to Hawaii, Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 spread over 65 islands. About 47,000 people live in Port Vila.

“This is a very devastating cyclone,” Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale told news outlets. “I term it as a monster, a monster. 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.”

Please join us in praying for the people of Vanuatu. Pray that God will bring hope and healing in the wake of the storm.

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