Trials and triumphs on Tanna, one year after Pam
A year after it was devastated after cyclone Pam, the Vanuatu island of Tanna is showing remarkable signs of recovery, but there is still a long way to go.
In March last year, the southern Vanuatu island of Tanna was devastated when it sustained a direct hit from the category five cyclone Pam.
Its infrastructure was flattened, thousands of homes were destroyed, and the island was stripped of much of its foliage.
Almost one year on, the island is still rebuilding, but there have been remarkable signs of progress.
Jamie Tahana travelled to Tanna to check it out.
Walking around the dusty, gravel roads near the main town of Lenakel, the scars of cyclone Pam are still all around.
Many trees lie where they were blown over, debris is still scattered along the ground and in trees, and many roofs are missing, tarpaulins in their place.
The island was one of the worst-hit by the category five cyclone and its winds as high as 200 kilometres an hour, which destroyed between 80 and 90 of Tanna's infrastructure.
Glenys, who lives in a village in the island's southwest, says Pam left the place unrecognisable.
"That cyclone came and damaged all our trees and all the nature that we have. And yeah, it's like a desert."
The Tafea provincial disaster coordinator, David Tovurvur, says most crops were wiped out and villages, many of which rely on subsistence farming, have struggled to grow them again with this year's strong El Niño-related drought.
"The El Niño was hitting hard. It was very difficult to grow. People seem to be waiting like, for example, this morning at the market, people were waiting for taro. As soon as the vehicle was there with all the taro, people were just going in. Food is still a big issue."
The MP for Tanna, Joe Natuman, says much of the island's infrastructure and public buildings remain in a state of disrepair, but his biggest concern is the state of many houses.
Outside the main towns, many houses are still build traditionally with roofs made of dried coconut leaves.
Mr Natuman says the wait for bush material to grow means many people still live in tents or under tarpaulins.
"Here, because people build their houses using local bush material, which was damaged, they're waiting for, you know, coconut to have enough leaves and other bush material. So a lot of houses are still not well repaired, it might take another few months, but that's a big issue in terms of peoples housing."
But while there is still a long way to go, Tanna has seen remarkable signs of progress in the past year.
Driving along the rough dirt road that crosses the island is an unpleasant experience for one's internal organs, but in the villages that line it, there are clear signs of recovery.
The landscape, which a year ago was baron and brown after nearly every tree was stripped from it, is green again as grass and trees spring from the ground.
And in the food gardens, villages are again starting to harvest yams, mangoes and bananas.
Mr Natuman says water is also starting to flow into the streams after heavy rains in December and January, and it appears the El Niño is starting to ease.
"I think they will slowly come back in terms of sustaining themselves in terms of food. Fortunately, we've been having some rain lately so that's good, crops are coming. On the whole, I think our people...they are resilient."
David Tovurvur says Tanna will continue to need international help for a long time yet as the rebuild continues, but he says the island's bounceback from disaster has been nothing short of remarkable.
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