Vanuatu. Hurricane, 2015
Period: 13 March 2015
Type of disaster: hurricane
Disaster: hurricane Pam races over the Vanuatu archipelago, causing huge damage
Estimated number of victims: 16 deaths, 166,000 people affected, 65,000 people left homeless
On 13 March 2015, hurricane Pam races over the Vanuatu archipelago. Many of the islands are flooded and gusts of up to 270 kilometres per hour are recorded. The damage is enormous: almost ninety per cent of the buildings – houses, schools, hospitals, water sources and power plants – are damaged or destroyed. More than half the 260,000 inhabitants are affected, and 16 people lose their lives. The islanders are in need because of the lack of basic necessities such as water, food and medical help. Hurricane Pam is probably the biggest natural disaster ever to hit Vanuatu. According to the country’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, the hurricane has wiped away ‘all recent development of the country and everything must be rebuilt’.
Vanuatu consists of an elongated archipelago of 83 islands, scattered over some 1,300 square kilometres in the South Pacific Ocean. Most of the over 260,000 islanders are Melanesian and live in the capital, Port Vila. The population is poor and the majority of people cultivate just enough food to cover their basic needs. In addition, money is earned through fishing and financial services. Moreover, thousands of tourists visit the territory every year, especially to snorkel and dive in the perfectly blue sea. Vanuatu has been independent since 1980. The republic is a democracy with a largely ceremonial president, and is governed by the prime minister and a cabinet of ministers.