22 Mar 2015

Outer islands running out of food and water

9:51 pm on 22 March 2015

Residents on the outer Vanuatu Island of Enae say they will run out of food and water in a week and desperately need help.

Volunteers load 50 25kg bags of rice, ready to deliver to the Shepherd Islands.

Volunteers load 50 25kg bags of rice, ready to deliver to the Shepherd Islands. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

The island, part of the Shepherd group of islands north of Port Vila, is home to 1200 people and but only two buildings have been left standing in the wake of Cyclone Pam.

Radio New Zealand International reporter Koroi Hawkins, who is in the Shepherd Islands, said the further out from the capital Port Vila he travels, the worse the devastation becomes.

Health worker Donald Kalsong said some supplies reached the island of Enae yesterday, but not enough.

He said only nine bags of rice and 200 litres of water were dropped off for the 1200 residents on the island.

Mr Kalsong said there are only a few root vegetables left in the ground to supplement the rice.

He said there were no serious injuries or illness on the island from the cyclone.

The secretary of the island's disaster committee, Richard Jenery said the island would run out of supplies within a week.

He said without more help, disease and sickness would begin to spread.

Death toll stands at 11

The Vanuatu government has once again revised the official death toll for Cyclone Pam, saying it stands at 11.

There have been reports of up to 16 dying.

The National Disaster Management Office said three deaths had been confirmed on the main island of Efate, five on Tanna, two on Mataso and one on Lelepa.

Mataso people had no water, shelter or medicine for six days.

Mataso people had no water, shelter or medicine for six days. Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

There were also four deaths recorded by the Vila Central Hospital immediately after the cyclone, but these were not directly related to the storm.

The government said credit for such a low death toll at this stage should be given to advanced warning systems through the Vanuatu Meteorology Service and telecommunication companies should also be praised for sending warning alerts through their SMS systems.

Australian Foreign Minister visits Vanuatu

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is expected to meet with the Vanuatu government tonight to assure them of her country's support in the cyclone relief efforts.

Ms Bishop is scheduled to travel to Vanuatu and see the devastating impact the cyclone has had, as well as to meet members of the Urban Search and Rescue Team.

The Minister is also to meet Prime Minister Joe Natuman and Foreign Minister Sato Kilman and update them on the Australian Defence Force's increased response to the aid mission.

The Australian Government said it continued to expand its support to Vanuatu, including the distribution of supplies for a further 2500 people, which will arrive on the HMAS Tobruk tomorrow.

In addition, Australia is providing more than $10 million in relief funding.

PACER talks on hold

Pacific Closer Economic Relations (PACER) talks due to be held in Port Vila this week have been postponed because of the damage done by Cyclone Pam.

The 10th round of the PACER-Plus trade negotiations had been expected to finalise a deal strengthening trade and economic links between Pacific nations, including New Zealand and Australia.

The negotiations are now expected to take place in Port Vila on 4 May.

Edwini Kessie

Edwini Kessie Photo: Supplied

Chief trade adviser of the Pacific Islands negotiating group, Edwini Kessie, said Vanuatu has made great strides in recent years in improving its economy and raising the living standards of its people, but the cyclone has wiped out those gains and left colossal infrastructural damage.

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