Vanuatu – After cyclone Pam devastated the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, there were fears that thousands could be dead on the outlying islands, as it was not possible to immediately see the destruction that was caused there, due to broken bridges and torn down communication lines. Aid workers have finally been able to reach the outlying islands this Wednesday, discovering that the residents’ familiarity with the natural disasters that occur at this time of the year and their careful planning had spared the lives of most people.
The outlying islands were feared to have the highest death toll, as these areas ended up bearing the full fury of the storm. Although many villages were completely flattened and torn to pieces, the death toll of the population of 267,000 stood at just 11.
Many relief groups have visited the outlying islands in the past, advising the residents on what they should do if a natural disaster were to occur in the area. During cyclone Pam, the locals followed this advice, with most of them taking shelter in larger buildings, such as churches and schools, which was exactly what they had been advised to do.
Vanuatu lies on the Pacific ‘ring of fire’, which is the area that frequently finds itself in the middle of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Vanuatu also often sees cyclones at this time of the year, and although none have been as bad as cyclone Pam, it meant that the residents were familiar with the evacuation process, and had specific evacuation buildings built for a time like this.