Residents of the southern Vanuatu island of Tanna said they were running out of food and basic supplies on Tuesday, after a huge cyclone tore across the South Pacific nation wreaking widespread devastation but not the heavy death toll initially feared.
Relief workers were still battling to reach many of the islands pummeled by Cyclone Pam’s gusts of more than 300 kph (185 mph) on Friday and Saturday.
With communications cut off and reconnaissance flights revealing destroyed houses, shredded forests and damaged buildings, international aid agencies had been particularly worried about Tanna, which bore the full force of the storm.
A Reuters witness on the island of 29,000 people, about 200 km (125 miles) south of the capital, said that while damage was extensive, it appeared most of the population had survived by sheltering in schools, churches and other sturdy buildings.
“People sheltered in school buildings. We were helping one another,” Ropate Vuso, 67, told Reuters in Tanna township.
“We are running short of food, water, shelter and electricity. We have no communications, we are still waiting for the people from parliament, the chief and the president, but still nobody is coming.”
There were unconfirmed reports of four deaths in and around the main town of Tanna.
Daniel Dieckhaus, an adviser for USAid, said hard-hit communities were showing remarkable resilience.
“You can see them out there now, rebuilding with whatever they have,” he said.
The United Nations said on Tuesday the official death toll from the cyclone was 11, revising down its earlier figure of 24, but many officials anticipate that number would rise once they are able to more thoroughly inspect the outer islands of the scattered archipelago.