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Old 14-03-15, 12:00   #1
 
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Green Arrow First Deaths Confirmed>Cyclone Pam Roars Over Vanuatu-Worst in History


Cyclone Pam's projected path



A tropical cyclone killed at least six people in Vanuatu, UNICEF said Saturday, confirming first casualties from one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall.

Hardly a tree stood straight after Tropical Cyclone Pam bellowed across the Pacific island nation.

Aid workers fear many more fatalities. The confirmed deaths came only from the capital, Port Vila.

A radio silence has set in on possible deaths elsewhere, and it is making Sune Gudnitz feel uneasy.

"Unfortunately, we have nothing from outside of Port Vila, which is in itself a bad sign," the spokesman for UN aid agency OCHA said. Widespread wiped out communications could indicate desolation.

"We've heard there has been quite a lot of destruction up north." That's where Pam's eye roared through.


'Unbelievable destruction'


Pam had churned through the South Pacific with the might of a Category 5 hurricane before notching down to Category 4 after landfall at 11:23 p.m. Friday local time. CNN's Weather Center said 155 mph (250 kmh) winds razed the island nation.

Aid workers fear many more fatalities. The confirmed deaths came only from the capital, Port Vila

A radio silence has set in on possible deaths elsewhere, and it is making Sune Gudnitz feel uneasy.

"Unfortunately, we have nothing from outside of Port Vila, which is in itself a bad sign," the spokesman for UN aid agency OCHA said. Widespread wiped out communications could indicate desolation.

"We've heard there has been quite a lot of destruction up north." That's where Pam's eye roared through.


Trees piled high


Alice Clements spent the night cowering under the bathroom sink.

"But all what I could think about during that time is the people who might be literally clinging to coconut trees for their lives, and trying to hold on in those horrific winds," the UNICEF spokeswoman said.

After Pam passed, World Vision emergency specialist Chloe Morrison took a drive around the island that is home to the capital.

"Port Vila looks like an absolute bomb has hit it," she said. Images showed trees toppled to the ground, along with corrugated metal roofing strewn around like silver wrappers.

Trees stood in the way of Morrison's vehicle. "They've fallen across in piles so high in some places you can barely see over the top," she said.


Strongest since Haiyan


Pam is the strongest storm to make landfall in the Pacific typhoon region since Haiyan raked over the Philippines in 2013, obliterating parts of Leyte.

It shattered homes and trees into match sticks, and killed more than 6,000 people.

Vanuatu's capital may have been luckier than Leyte.


City on lockdown


Many roads are obstructed in Port Vila, and police had put the city on temporary lockdown, Gudnitz said. But there are some solid structures there to protect people. And in first images out of the city, many buildings looked intact.

The capital may be a fortunate exception.

The nation, which lies east of Australia, is an archipelago comprising 83 small islands, many remote and lacking infrastructure. People away from the capital live much like their ancestors did generations ago.



Homes are built of weaker materials, including straw and corrugated steel, and may have had little stamina against Pam's raging winds.

Huts around Port Vila did not. Some blew away, Morrison said. "There are some villages that have been absolutely decimated."

Hunkered down, terrified

Even in a concrete house in Port Vila, emergency worker Morrison was terrified of the whirring force. She huddled in a back room with seven other people.

"Seven hours hunkered down and it's still not safe to go outside," she said early Saturday. "The winds are still really howling." It sounded like there was an angry ocean at their door.

As a piece of tin twisted off the roof and landed by a window, Morrison felt lucky to be shielded by solid walls.


Concrete churches


World Vision's emergency assessment team planned to view damage after the storm died down.

Their staff hopes preparations will have paid off. They had positioned clean water, food, blankets, tarpaulins, and shelter, hygiene and kitchen kits in key places before the cyclone arrived.

They advised residents to seek shelter in sturdy buildings such as universities and schools.

"The strongest thing they've got is cement churches," said Inga Mepham from CARE International. "Some of them don't have that. It's hard to find a structure that you'd think would be able to withstand a Category 5 (storm)."


Next cyclone brewing


Pam is forecast to move southeastward along the western edge of the southern islands of Vanuatu. It isn't expected to make any additional landfalls before dissipating.

It will continue to weaken as it crosses cooler waters and encounters higher wind shear.

But over Queensland, Australia, a new cyclone, Nathan, is brewing. It is expected to arrive at Vanuatu this week.
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