Struck by a ferocious cyclone, the South Pacific islands that make up Vanuatu were expected to discover widespread destruction and a sharply higher death toll with aerial surveys beginning Monday.
The cyclone is thought to have wreaked utter havoc on outer islands of the archipelago when it struck Friday. Driving rain and high seas across the islands destroyed resorts and left yachts and other boats smashed on piers and moorings. Crops have been flattened, and Vanuatu’s natural coral reefs are likely to have been damaged.
The aid group Oxfam said in a news statement that about 90 percent of the housing in Port-Vila, the capital, had been damaged.
The death toll, which stood at eight, will probably rise sharply as rescuers reach more far-flung areas, aid agencies said.
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Yachts damaged by Cyclone Pam in Port-Vila, Vanuatu, on Saturday.
Cyclone Hits Island Nation of Vanuatu, Killing 8MARCH 14, 2015
“A lot of these islands can only be reached by sea or air,” Alice Clements, a Unicef communications specialist, said in Port-Vila. She said she had heard that on some of those islands, everything had been flattened.
“All this development has been wiped out,” Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, said shakily Monday in Sendai, Japan, where he had been attending a conference on reducing the risk of disasters. “So this means we will have to start anew again.”
He said in remarks carried by Australian television that he would be heading home Monday and acknowledged that with communications still not fully restored, the extent of damage was not clear.