The president of Vanuatu appealed for international assistance Saturday after a devastating tropical cyclone slammed his South Pacific island nation.
Carrying 270 kilometer-per-hour winds, Cyclone Pam destroyed entire villages, tearing off rooftops, downing power lines and toppling trees.
Reports of 44 deaths remained unconfirmed, as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the destruction and damage was feared to be «widespread.»
A U.N. statement on a meeting between Mr. Ban and President Lonsdale on the sidelines of the Japan conference quoted the U.N. chief as saying Vanuatu «has already been suffering from the adverse effects of climate change.» He said «storms such as Pam only exacerbate the challenges that the country faces.»
Communications in many of the hard-hit outlying islands were down, meaning it could take some time before the full scope of the storm’s effects are known. Aid officials say the disaster could be one of the worst the Pacific region has ever experienced.
Agencies hope to begin to fly in relief goods on Sunday when the airport in Port Vila is expected to reopen.
Authorities in New Zealand are also preparing for the storm, which is forecast to pass north of the country Sunday and Monday.
Vanuatu, located east of Australia, consists of more than 80 islands in a Y-shaped archipelago, according to the U.S. State Department. The CIA World Factbook puts the nation’s population at nearly 267,000.