24 Mar 2015

Cyclone Pam: Vanuatu struggles to pick up the pieces

7:48 am on 24 March 2015

Over a week after Cyclone Pam Radio New Zealand International's Koroi Hawkins gives us a first-hand account of the devastation in Vanuatu as he moves on to Emae Island.

Final thoughts on Mataso

My next posts will focus on Emae Island but this last one, from Mataso, I have been debating whether to share.

Ishmael Johnson at the grave

Ishmael Johnson at the grave Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

Ishmael Johnson, my guide on the island took me to this grave of a grandmother he says became separated from her family when the cyclone tore apart their house.

She was hit in the head and fell to the ground suffering two head injuries.

She was found the morning after Pam, revived and lay in a stable condition in a crude shelter erected by her relatives.

She died on Thursday having hung on to life for six whole days without medical attention.

No beach access…..what do you do?

After leaving Mataso, heading towards Emae, we stopped off at Makira Island where we were faced with a wall of coral protecting the beach.

People helping out on Makira Island

People transfer water bags to the beach on Makira Island Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

The captain did the logical thing and ran the barge up on the coral reef so people could swim out and transfer water bags to the beach.

We were transferred separately on this dinghy which children from the island gathered round.

Ralph a crew member on the Epi Dream was well known to the children and people in the village who shouted his name excitedly as he zipped back and forth in the mini skiff.

Children on Makira island

Children on Makira island Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

Fight for survival

Sangava Village, Emae Island, Shepherds Group

Leisale John and her granddaughter Lucy Alick

Leisale John and her granddaughter Lucy Alick Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

Leisale John and her granddaughter Lucy Alick sit in what remains of their home.

Leisale said they were both inside when Pam tore it apart they ran to a neighbours house for shelter but that also blew away.

She says if it was not for the help of some boys in the village who got them to safety neither of them would have survived.

When I asked her what kind of help she needed she said she only wanted a better education for or grandchildren and called on elders in her village to remember women whose husbands had passed away during times of crisis.

Her daughter and baby daughter watched with interest as I spoke with Leisale.

Leisale John's daughter and baby daughter

Leisale John's daughter and baby daughter Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

House of refuge

During cyclone Pam only 12 people took shelter in the chapel of New Covenant Church and were safe.

After the destruction of the storm more than 50 villagers who lost their homes now sleep in the church at night and sift through the rubble of their homes or scavenge the remnants of their gardens in the day.

New Covenant Church in Sangava Village

New Covenant Church in Sangava Village Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

A child sleeps outside the New Covenant Church in Sangava Village

Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

Outside the church, Pastor David's granddaughter sleeps in the cool breeze, as the boarded up windows make the church very stuffy in the daytime.

The New Covenant Church in Sangava Village

The New Covenant Church in Sangava Village Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

Repetitive Assessments

Richard Jenery Senior and Junior pore over their community disaster assessment list in preparation for what they say is their third assessment meeting with government officials since cyclone Pam.

Richard Jenery Senior and Junior look at their community disaster assessment list

Richard Jenery Senior and Junior look at their community disaster assessment list Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

Richard Jnr told me on Sunday that they were tired of hearing helicopters and planes flying over head with no relief reaching them since Pam.

He said assessment teams from Vila fly all the way out to Emae to carry out their surveys but bring no food or water relief with them.

Richard Jr told me one such official from an international organisation asked Richard Jnr for water because he was thirsty.

Richard Jenery Senior and Junior look at their community disaster assessment list

Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

Thirsty Islands

Everywhere I go in these Shepherd Islands I hear about how green and lush they were before cyclone Pam.

But all I see now are these dry, dusty islands.

This boy was told by his father to push the pump so I could see the seemingly clean but dangerously dirty water.

Shepherd Islands water pump

Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

Meanwhile, this old man was cheerfully pulling water from a storage tank full of debris and leaves.

Vanuatu - Shepherd Islands

Photo: NZ / Koroi Hawkins

The levels in the tank are not far from the bottom.

Follow Koroi Hawkins' tweets as he travels in the Shepherd Islands