At least eight people are dead after Cyclone Pam ripped through the south Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu.
The cyclone is the strongest to ever strike the islands with torrential rain and winds of up to 270km/h (170mph) and has left a trail of destruction in its wake, destroying houses in the capital, Port Vila, as well as other towns and villages.
Chloe Morrison, an emergency communications officer with World Vision who is in Port Vila, said:
“We’ve seen villages that have just literally been blown away.”
Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale said that the cyclone had affected 260,000 people and with a “heavy heart” appealed for aid.
Air agencies and NGOs are struggling to access the islands, as the main airport remains closed due to flooding.
Vincent Omuga, deputy head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Regional Office for the Pacific, commented:
“Power lines are still down, there is lots of damage to infrastructure and lots of houses have been destroyed. Many province are flooded and inaccessible, and the islands on the eastern side [of the archipelago]were especially affected.”
Nichola Krey, Save the Children’s Head of Humanitarian Response, commented:
“Approximately 50,000 children are at risk and urgently need help. The next few hours and days are critical for their survival.
“Children are the most vulnerable in emergencies. They can easily drown in flood waters and can be exposed to sexual and physical abuse in the chaos after a disaster.
“Our number one priority right now is to save children’s lives and keep them safe.”