Photos: Isolated islands thrashed by Cyclone Pam challenge relief efforts

BY    | Updated: Mar 16, 2015 at 2:38 PM
A boy called Samuel kicks a ball as his father Phillip searches through the ruins of their home which was destroyed by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in the South Pacific Ocean on March 16, 2015. Photo by Dave Hunt/Pool/Reuters

A boy called Samuel kicks a ball as his father Phillip searches through the ruins of their home which was destroyed by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in the South Pacific Ocean on Monday. Photo by Dave Hunt/Pool/Reuters

Updated at 2:38 p.m. EDT: The U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination team in Vanuatu said 24 people are confirmed dead and 3,300 are displaced from their homes.

Original Story:

Cyclone Pam, with winds of more than 185 mph, flattened homes, washed out roads and knocked out power to the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu over the weekend, and relief organizations were rushing to respond on Monday.

Eight people were reported dead, but authorities feared the number would grow as more rescuers searched the islands. About 10,000 people had to evacuate to storm shelters.

Local resident Uwen Garae stands in his home damaged by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, the capital city of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, on March 16, 2015. Photo by Dave Hunt/Pool/Reuters

Local resident Uwen Garae stands in his home damaged by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, the capital city of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Photo by Dave Hunt/Pool/Reuters

It was the strongest storm to make landfall since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013.

Military flights from Australia and New Zealand were bringing water, sanitation kits and shelters to the islands. Relief organizations, including Stamford, Connecticut-based AmeriCares, also were mobilizing supplies and medical volunteers from NYC Medics to help.

An aerial view on March 16, 2015, shows homes destroyed by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, the capital of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Photo by Dave Hunt/Pool/Reuters

An aerial view on Monday shows homes destroyed by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, the capital of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Photo by Dave Hunt/Pool/Reuters

“With 65 inhabited islands, it’s a real challenge getting supplies to where they’re most needed,” said Garrett Ingoglia, vice president of AmeriCares’ emergency response. “Typhoon Haiyan was challenging because it hit a whole series of islands. But this is even more challenging with less infrastructure and more islands, and [a greater percentage] of the population affected.”

The medics and supply teams were planning to fly to Brisbane, Australia, and figure out how to get to the islands from there, he said. They were bringing medications such as pain killers and antibiotics to help with injuries and prevent water-borne diseases.

Children stand in front of debris on a street near their homes on March 15, 2015, after Cyclone Pam hit Port Vila, the capital city of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Photo by Kris Paras/Reuters

Children stand in front of debris on a street near their homes after Cyclone Pam hit. Photo by Kris Paras/Reuters

Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale said the cyclone had destroyed or damaged more than 90 percent of the buildings and homes in the capital Port Vila. “I term it as a monster, a monster,” he told the Associated Press. “After all the development that has taken place, all this development has been wiped out. So it means we will have to start anew again.”

Local resident Adrian Banga stands in the remains of his home destroyed by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in the South Pacific Ocean on March 16, 2015. Photo by Dave Hunt/Pool/Reuters

Local resident Adrian Banga stands in the remains of his home destroyed by Cyclone Pam in Port Vila. Photo by Dave Hunt/Pool/Reuters

A satellite image from NASA shows the scope of Cyclone Pam as it was heading southwest on March 13 before it flooded the Vanuatu islands.

NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image of Cyclone Pam on March 13, 2015. Not long after the image was acquired, the storm struck the island of Efate, which is home to Vanuatu’s capital city, Port Vila. Image courtesy of NASA

NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image of Cyclone Pam on March 13. Not long after the image was acquired, the storm struck the island of Efate, which is home to Vanuatu’s capital city, Port Vila. Image courtesy of NASA

It was “an unusually busy week” for massive storms in the Pacific Ocean near Australia, according to NASA. The satellite image below shows three of the storms: Pam, Nathan and Olwyn.

It has been an unusually busy week for tropical cyclones in the vicinity of Australia. This mosaic shows three storms -- Pam, Nathan and Olwyn -- swirling near the continent on March 11, 2015. Image courtesy of NASA

This mosaic shows three storms — Pam, Nathan and Olwyn — swirling near Australia on March 11, 2015. Image courtesy of NASA

Vanuatu gained its independence from the British and French in 1980. The archipelago has a population of about 267,000 and derives revenues mostly from small-scale agriculture, fishing and tourism.

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