Cyclone Pam hit the Republic of Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean on Friday, March 13. The storm made initial landfall with wind speeds as high as 200 mph, or a Category 5 storm (learn more about hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones here). It weakened slightly over landfall, making a direct hit on the island nation’s capitol city of Port Vila as a Category 4 storm.

As of 12 p.m. ET on March 14, at least eight deaths had been reported from the storm, and reports from aid workers in the nation say that number will grow into the hundreds or more. Many areas of Vanuatu remain out of contact – only one cell phone tower is standing, and all of the reported deaths all come from the capitol city. News reports indicate that nearly all trees were flattened on the islands, and infrastructure damage is significant.

Vanuatu is a remote island nation that is roughly 1,300 miles north of New Zealand. Several organizations are working to respond to the disaster, including United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations, but the Vanuatu’s location and the level of damage has created a number of obstacles to immediate aid.

Donors considering recovery efforts in Vanuatu should fund NGOs they already have relationships who are working in the area. They should also consider supporting local NGOs with a long-term presence in the nation.

If you are an iNGO responding to the disaster or a funder who needs additional information, we want to hear from you. Email anna.hurt@disasterphilanthropy.org.

 

Sources: CNN, The Weather Channel, UN Media Center