Cyclone Pam may have crushed homes and schools in Vanuatu but not people's spirits, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.
Monday 23 Mar 2015

HMAS Tobruk arrives in Vanuatu

An Australian navy ship, with more than 300 personnel on board, has arrived in Port Vila to help in the wake of Cyclone Pam.
An Australian navy ship has arrived in Vanuatu to help in the clean-up effort following deadly Cyclone Pam.HMAS Tobruk, carrying 335 personnel, has a MRH90 Taipan helicopter on board that will help in reaching isolated areas.A weather and...

Australians should book holidays to Vanuatu when it's back on its feet to help the post-cyclone economic recovery, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.

Ms Bishop made a flying visit to Vanuatu in a military aircraft on Sunday to see the devastating effects of Cyclone Pam first-hand.

The super storm may have crushed homes and schools in Vanuatu but not people's spirits, she said on Monday.

"Homes have been flattened, government buildings torn apart, schools, the hospital, and yet the people are so resilient," she told the Nine Network.

A woman looks on amongst the ruins of her home on the remote south-west coast of Tanna Island , Vanuatu. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

HMAS Tobruk is due to arrive in Port Vila on Monday with 335 defence personnel and supplies on board.

Agriculture and tourism are key to the Pacific nation's long term economic recovery.

"As soon as Vanuatu is back up on its feet I hope that Australians in particular will return to Vanuatu as a tourist destination," Ms Bishop said.

Sunday 22 Mar 2015
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has met with Australian government staff, volunteers and medical teams during a brief trip to Vanuatu.
Australia will support Vanuatu for as long as it needs, Julie Bishop says, as the cyclone-devastated nation recovers from the biggest disaster it has faced.The foreign minister made a flying visit to Vanuatu from Brisbane in a military aircraft on...
Saturday 21 Mar 2015

Aid relief slow in Vanuatu

Aid is being distributed to the outer islands of Vanuatu, where the death toll form tropical Cyclone Pam has risen to 16.
Aid is slowly making its way through Vanuatu in the aftermath of devastating Cyclone Pam, as Australia ups its relief effort with troops and two Army Black Hawk helicopters.The Category 5 storm barrelled into the South Pacific island nation a week...
Friday 20 Mar 2015

Arguments at Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office are holding up vital aid for cyclone victims, several sources say.

No food aid packages have been distributed in Vanuatu, seven days after Cyclone Pam struck the island nation.

It's understood huge quantities of emergency food and other aid are sitting idle in the Vanuatu Mobile Force barracks in the capital Port Vila.

Local newspaper the Vanuatu Daily Post reports that National Disaster Management Office officials are arguing over the distribution of aid.

Government spokesman Kiery Manassah says the aid is being stalled because islanders are likely to have enough to eat this week, while the food will be needed next week.

He also says the government wants to make sure the needs of all the estimated 67,000 households affected by the savage storm are met equally.

"The government wants transparency, accountability and a fair distribution of relief supplies," Mr Manassah told the Vanuatu Daily Post.

Aid is seen on-board an Australian RAAF C-17 Globemaster in transit to Vanuatu, Monday, March 16, 2015. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Aid organisations and the UN are poised to distribute huge amounts food and other aid as soon as the NDMO directs them to do so.

Expatriates in Port Vila, who didn't want to be named, are critical of the nation's disaster response, accusing the NDMO of incompetence.

"All that aid is just sitting up there while people are going hungry," an Australian man, who had lived in Vanuatu for more than 15 years, told AAP.

"There's little kids with really bad cuts and stuff from the cyclone that can't even get a bandage at the moment."

He said concerned expats and local businesses had taken it upon themselves to buy bags of rice, flour and other supplies and distribute them to hungry locals.

A New Zealand woman, also a long-term resident, said the NDMO had handed out lengthy disaster surveys to hungry people who didn't even know how to fill them out.

"Some of the questions aren't even related to the cyclone. They're just ridiculous," she told AAP.

She said people desperately needed food.

"They can build shelter again. That's easy," she said.

"In Vanuatu we get earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, cyclones. We're used to disasters. We know how to get things going again.

"This time we have all this help, but seven days later we still don't have the one thing we need - food."

Vanuatu has hit out at the lack of coordination among aid groups swarming the cyclone-ravaged Pacific nation, which it says is costing precious time getting help to those in need, while warning food will run out in a week.

Relief agencies have been battling logistical challenges in the sprawling archipelago with a lack of landing strips and deep water ports hampering their efforts to reach distant islands and get a better grip on the full scale of the disaster.

Stefan Armbruster reports from Port Vila: 

They continue to paint a bleak picture, detailing large-scale property and crop destruction, and an urgent need for clean water, medical supplies, tents, bedding and hygiene kits.

Aid finally reached the badly hit island of Tanna on Wednesday, five days after Severe Cyclone Pam roared ashore on Friday night, but many of the 80 islands that make up Vanuatu remain without help.

National disaster committee deputy chair Benjamin Shing said while the country appreciates the aid, the initial response could have been handled better with many groups and NGOs working on their own rather than in cooperation with the government.

"I do apologise but I have to state the facts. We have seen this time and time again," he said at a briefing in the capital Port Vila.

"In nearly every country in the world where they go in they have their own operational systems, they have their own networks and they refuse to conform to government directives.

"We had to spend the first three days trying to get some form of coordination in place.

A woman looks on amongst the ruins of her home on the remote south-west coast of Tanna Island , Vanuatu. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

That was much precious time that could have been spent doing the assessments instead." Oxfam country director in Port Vila Colin Collett van Rooyen denied any disorganisation.

"Our position is that we will continue to work with the government, as we have been, and as we always do, to address the best interests of those in need," he said.

In a situation update, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted: "Coordination with the ministry of health regarding flights to provinces is critical".

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Thursday 19 Mar 2015

A week ago, 60,000 chickens fed the country's growing population - now there are just a few thousand left. Vanuatu's only chicken farm has been decimated by the cyclone.

Already there is hunger and the country will now have to rely on imports for eggs and meat. 

SBS reporter Stefan Armbruster is in Port Vila: 

"We're not going to lay down and die we're going to get back up and rebuild and get back to where it was a week ago," said Ken Thoade from Chiko Chicken Farm.

In Port Vila, services are slowly returning. But often only in a limited way, and only with international help. 

Staff at the capital's main school are desperately trying to salvage resources.

"There are lots of book warehouses out there, you know in the western world books are going out of fashion, you can't sell your second-hand books, you can't get rid of them. Well, we need good books, good encyclopedias, reference books, all subjects, reading books." said Port Vila Central School headmaster Paul Alexander Hetyey.

Australia's Medical Assistance Team is now set up at the hospital.

"This is still an unfolding story," AusMAT's Matthew Harper told SBS. There are a lot of islands in the Vanuatu group, many islands are having their first assessments done now, every day there is a new challenge."

"We're seeing a fairly low casualty rate, we seeing trauma usually associated with cyclones, so blunt object injuries and broken bones."

Almost a week after the cyclone, relief missions are just now beginning to reach Vanuatu's devastated outer Islands.

Relief agencies are battling logistical challenges in the sprawling archipelago with a lack of landing strips and deep water ports hampering their efforts to reach distant islands and get a better grip on the full scale of the disaster.

The Australian government has chartered a helicopter to track down its citizens on remote Vanuatu islands after the cyclone.
More than 100 Australians and Canadians are still unaccounted for in Vanuatu six days after Cyclone Pam hit.The category five storm flattened the Pacific island state last Friday, killing at least 11 people and leaving thousands homeless.The...