Storm track of Cyclone Pam, as it struck Vanuatu on 13 March 2015. Graphic: The Guardian

By Peter Walker and Paul Farrell
16 March 2015

(The Guardian) – At least 24 people died when cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu at the weekend, authorities have confirmed. The storm flattened buildings, wrecked infrastructure and has left more than 3,000 people in the South Pacific island nation displaced.

As the full scale of the storm remained unclear due to the archipelago’s remote nature and its severely damaged telephone network, a statement from the national disaster management office raised the death toll from single digits and said that 3,300 people were sheltering at 37 evacuation centres.

It is feared that those numbers could rise still further as communications with outlying islands are restored. Initial indications are that the devastation to rural communities is far more significant than even in the capital city, Port Vila, which is itself very badly damaged.

As the first rescue teams to reach those islands warned of significant damage, the president of Vanuatu, Baldwin Lonsdale, warned that climate change was contributing to more extreme weather conditions.

Speaking at a UN conference in Sendai, Japan, on Monday, President Lonsdale said 90% of buildings in Port Vila had been damaged or destroyed by the category five storm, which saw winds of up to 250km/h (150mph).

“It’s a setback for the government and for the people of Vanuatu,” he said. “After all the development that has taken place, all this development has been wiped out.”

Lonsdale said the cyclone seasons that the nation had experienced were directly linked to climate change.

“We see the level of sea rise … The cyclone seasons, the warm, the rain, all this is affected ,” he said. “This year we have more than in any year … Yes, climate change is contributing to this.

“I am very emotional … Everyone has that same feeling. We don’t know what happened to our families … We cannot reach our families; we do not know if our families are safe. As the leader of the nation, my heart hurts for the people of the whole nation.” [more]

Cyclone Pam: 24 confirmed dead as Vanuatu president blames climate change


16 March 2015 (Al Jazeera) – The president of the Seychelles on Monday called on the international community to "wake up" to climate change after a massive tropical cyclone devastated the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

"The cyclone, which has just struck Vanuatu — a sister small island state — with such catastrophic effects and the tragic loss of lives is a clear manifestation of climate change, which some persist to deny," Seychelles President James Michel said in a statement.

"Today it is the South Pacific. Tomorrow it could be us," he added.

His comments echoed those of Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale. "Climate change is contributing to the disaster in Vanuatu," he said Monday, as relief agencies surveyed the scale of damage caused by Super Cyclone Pam.

Reports from the outer islands of Vanuatu on Monday painted a picture of utter destruction after the monster storm tore through the South Pacific island nation, flattening buildings and killing at least 24 people. [more]

Seychelles issues ‘wake up’ call on climate change after Vanuatu cyclone

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