Australian aid begins to arrive in Vanuatu

Australian aid has begun to arrive in cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu after Port Vila airport was reopened.


The Red Cross has confirmed international aid arrived on Sunday morning and more help will come from Australia and New Zealand as the nation grapples with the aftermath of category five Cyclone Pam.

Australia has committed a “lifesaving” package of $5 million and humanitarian supplies.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the commitment follows a request from the Vanuatu government.

“This package will include $5 million that will be provided to Australian NGOs, particularly the Red Cross and to other United Nations partners,” she told reporters in Perth.

“We will also be deploying humanitarian supplies to provide support for up to 5,000 people in the form of water, sanitation and shelter.”

The announcement was welcomed by Oxfam Country Director Colin Collet van Rooyen, who is in Port Vila.

“Obviously we’re going to need more, but we welcome it,” he told AAP.

“We have limited supplies of food in the country.”

Oxfam, World Vision and CARE International are already on the ground in Vanuatu with teams who were there before the cyclone hit.

The official death toll stands at least six in Vanuatu’s capital but is expected to rise, with unconfirmed reports of 44 people killed in just one province.

Mr Collet van Rooyen said more people would die in coming days from injuries, because access to villages and outer islands was limited.

“Some people’s death could be prevented if we can access them now,” he said.

“People with search and rescue expertise are incredible needed at this point.”

The Oxfam spokesman said he still didn’t know whether the main hospital’s power had been restored since the generator went down.

The long-term financial impact on Vanuatu could be severe, with infrastructure and tourism likely to be heavily impacted, he said.

“The people of Vanuatu are going to have to rebuild, but rebuild in a ways that are more sustainable, more category 5 cyclone resistant,” Mr Collet van Rooyen told AAP.

Aid agencies warn it could be days before the full extent of the damage is known – and it will take months to rebuild the tiny island nation.

World Vision said more than 2,000 people had already sought refuge in emergency shelters in the capital Port Vila, but it could take weeks to reach the more remote islands affected.

At this point, no one has heard anything from the outlying islands.

World Vision worker Chloe Morrison says the winds from Cyclone Pam, in excess of 250km/h, turned buildings into debris.

“Whole villages have been blown away. The homes have been absolutely completely flattened, they’re just piles of timber, and sometimes not even that. They just are totally decimated,” she said in a statement.