Villagers recount incredible stories of survival after Cyclone Pam


It's nearly four months since Cyclone Pam pummelled Vanuatu, killing up to 15 people and leaving more than 3,000 homeless. In one small village on the island of Tanna, the stories of survival are extraordinary.

Life's uncomplicated in the small village of Iwel, home to 40.

There's no electricity, no phones or computers. Just a dozen or so huts crafted from the scrub, and a remarkable spirit of survival.

In a borrowed wheelchair outside his reconstructed bamboo home sits Iaris Niere. Disabled since birth, Mr Niere feared the worst when strong winds ripped through the village, toppling the traditional houses one by one.

Without a wheelchair and frightened for his life, Mr Niere used his hands to propel himself about 200 metres to a safehouse, which remarkably survived the wind and rain.

“He says that he was here by himself and there were trees lying around here and how he can walk using his hands he managed to go there,” interpreter John John Kawiel said.

Mr Niere escaped his home in the nick of time.

“His house fell as soon as he left the house - by chance he left the house at the time the house collapse - the old house,” Mr Kawiel said.

Simon David was one of 40 people who was crammed into the village’s one home which was still standing. He said Mr Niere’s arrival was met with high emotion.

“When we found disabled coming we were very sad and some are crying for him and we took him inside and give him a clothes to wear,” Mr David said.

Almost four months on from Cyclone Pam and Iwel has rebuilt, but even in the days and weeks after the category five front hit, there were dangers.

A month after the cyclone, Iawillum Charlie was weaving beneath a huge Banyan tree when a branch fell and knocked her unconscious.

The mother-of-six said she was lucky to survive.

“She was unconscious but she still alive she's getting better - the treatments she still receiving the treatments from the accident,” Mr Kawiel said.

Simon David sayid the small community had grown even closer since Pam arrived and departed in March

“We feel very strong because we are facing the strong cyclone and we get a new ideas to build a strong houses, we help each other to re-build the house for each other,” he said.


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