This handout photo taken and received on 14 March 2015 by UNICEF Pacific shows residents looking through storm damage caused by Cyclone Pam, in the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila. Photo: UNICEF Pacific

By Ben Brumfield and Laura Smith-Spark
14 March 2015

(CNN) – 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.

Only a little information has so far trickled out from areas outside the capital, but Sune Gudnitz, regional head for U.N. aid agency OCHA told CNN from Fiji, about 600 miles away, that he fears the worst.

"Unfortunately, the more that comes out, the worse it looks," said Gudnitz. "I should say it's really a case of the worst-case scenario for the country and for the people."

His agency has had word of much destruction on Efate, the island that houses the capital, where Pam's eye roared through, and from the southern island of Tanna, he said.

But many areas remain out of contact. And widespread wiped-out communications could indicate desolation.

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 blasted the island nation.

There were gusts up to 200 mph (325 kmh). And the cyclone's damage has stunned relief workers. […]

Satellite view of Cyclone Pam as it passes over the island nation of Vanuatu on 13 March 2015. Photo:

The airport in Port Vila has been damaged and it's not clear when it will be able to reopen to allow relief flights to land. The U.N. aid agency hopes to get its first team on the ground with vital aid on Sunday, Gudnitz said. […]

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.

There's no power in the whole of Vanuatu, Clements said, making it impossible for people to recharge their cell phones to call in. The water supply is also cut off, adding to people's difficulties.

After Pam passed, World Vision emergency specialist Chloe Morrison took a drive around part of 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 blocked the path of Morrison's vehicle. "They've fallen across in piles so high in some places you can barely see over the top," she said. […]

Over Queensland, Australia, a new cyclone, Nathan, is brewing. It is expected to reach Vanuatu this week. [more]

First deaths confirmed after Tropical Cyclone Pam roars over Vanuatu



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