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Red Cross Disaster Specialist Deploying to Vanuatu

Vanuatu

The American Red Cross has deployed a disaster specialist to Vanuatu and committed $100,000 to help people impacted by Tropical Cyclone Pam—a category 5 storm that made landfall in the South Pacific island nation this weekend.

Battered by wind gusts of more than 150 mph, many houses have been damaged or completely destroyed. There are reports of damage to health facilities, loss of running water and power outages. It is estimated that approximately 80% of the water infrastructure in Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, have been damaged. Immediate needs include shelter, water and sanitation, food and health. Due to a lack of clean water, disease is a major concern.

American Red Cross disaster specialist, Daniel Joseph, is boarding a flight today for Vanuatu, where he will support information management and reporting activities—essential assistance for an emergency of this scale, which can overwhelm local Red Crescent branches. The $100,000 contribution from the American Red Cross will support the Vanuatu Red Cross in providing basic relief such as food, water, sanitation, shelter and health activities.

“Homes have been lost, crops are destroyed. The damage is enormous, and people need our help,” said Aurélia Balpe of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent. “Yet it will still take some time before we really understand the full extent of the damage,” she warns.

On Sunday, the Vanuatu Red Cross made a breakthrough in communication by connecting with the southern Island of Tanna—where Cyclone Pam made its first landfall. “The island is simply flattened. Schools and concrete homes across Tanna are destroyed,” said Peter Lawther, a Red Cross shelter specialist. “Shelter, along with water and food, remain a top priority. We are working on getting help here as quickly as possible.” The extent of affected people and damage outside Port Vila among the country’s 6 provinces and 14 island groups is still largely unknown.

More than 3,000 people have been seeking safety in safe buildings and evacuations centers. On Erromango Island and other areas of Vanuatu, people have also used traditional methods of protection such as seeking shelter in caves. People in search of missing family members can visit http://familylinks.icrc.org/vanuatu.

Vanuatu Red Cross volunteers are assisting authorities with relief supply distributions, registrations in evacuation centers and damage assessments. Prior to the storm, the Vanuatu Red Cross helped to carry out evacuations across the country and convey important preparedness messages through national radio broadcasts.

Global Red Cross teams in the Solomon Islands and Fiji are active in Tuvalu and Kiribati, where associated sea swells have caused significant damage. The Red Cross is also monitoring closely the situation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Papua New Guinea

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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