Vanuatu Teaches Lesson In Megastorm Survival

Each and every year, countless lives are claimed by natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. Whether it be in the United States or elsewhere across the globe, megastorms are a part of people’s lives whether they like it or not. In Florida, Hurricane Season often strikes with a vengeance, while in parts of the Pacific, cyclones wreak similar havoc.

For Vanuatu, a country located far off Australia’s Northeastern coast, cyclones are something that are dealt with on an annual basis. If you have never heard of Vanuatu, do not be surprised, because most people haven’t. After all, it has a population of just over 250,000 and is located in one of the most remote parts of the world.

For the past few days, however, Vanuatu has made its way into international headlines due to a massive cyclone that has ripped the nation, which is made up of multiple islands, apart.

Cyclone Pam Weaves Path of Destruction

For the past week or more, the people of Vanuatu have had to deal with Category 5 Cyclone Pam. With winds of more than 180 MPH, Cyclone Pam was able to destroy the small, handmade homes that populate the country. Vanuatu, after all, is one of the world’s poorer nations, and their infrastructure reflects that.

In preparation for the storm and all the bad that comes with it, the prepared Vanuatu people began burying food and seeking shelter. Once Pam had finally made her way through the archipelago, aid workers began scrambling to get their things together and begin helping the hurt and burying the dead.

After a few days, and to the astonishment of everyone, the official death toll stood at just 11 people. Aid workers who lived through the storm were unable to comprehend how the small, impoverished island was able to withstand a storm that larger American cities would crumble beneath.

A few days ago, observers in a helicopter flew over one village along the coast that seemed to have been completely and utterly destroyed. But, to the amazement of everyone involved, a trip only a day later revealed that villagers had returned and begun to rebuild with whatever they could use. This not only says something about the survival skills of the people of Vanuatu, but also says a lot of their resilience.

Through a compilation of stories from aid workers, the number of ways these people were able to survive such a vicious storm (and other storms in the past) was amazing. One story claimed that a few people successfully took shelter in a kiln used to dry coconuts.

While most villages on the many islands of Vanuatu are located a bit inland in order to avoid the perils of tsunamis and other flooding, the same problems still persist. Luckily, most villages now have at least one fortified, wind-tested building that the people are able to retreat to.

Now that the storms have passed and the people begin to rebuild, the clock is ticking on when the island(s) will run out of supplies. Because the few air strips owned by Vanuatu are extremely damaged, and means of communication slim to none, reaching the island nation and providing it with aid has become a challenge in and of itself. We will have to keep a close eye on this situation as it unfolds. Most recently, a French ship carrying two helicopters was able to provide Vanuatu with some aid, but more will be required soon.