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Cornwall Helps Cyclone Victims

Cornwall Helps Cyclone Victims

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:00am 16th March 2015.

A Cornish charity is sending emergency aid to the victims of Cyclone Pam.

Winds of up to 185mph an hour hit Vanuatu on Saturday, with the storm described as "apocalyptic."

Now Helston based ShelterBox has warned that a quarter of a million people could be homeless.

It is mobilising a response team and sending survival kits.

The United Nations Humanitarian Office says that on the main island of Efate an estimated 90% of structures are either damaged or destroyed, and thousands of people are sheltering in over 25 evacuation centres across the provinces of Efate, Torba and Penama.

1,000 ShelterBox shelter kits, which will help with repair and waterproofing of damaged buildings, are to be dispatched from storage at Subang Aiport near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The kits, now a standard element of ShelterBox's range of aid, are designed to Red Cross specifications.

Vanuatu's key air hub, Bauerfield International Airport near the capital Port Vila had to have its runway cleared of floodwater. Aid flights from Australia and New Zealand air forces are now able to land, although commercial flights remain suspended. ShelterBox response team members Ross Mackenzie from New Zealand and Peter Pearce from Australia are expected to be able to fly to Vanuatu within days to make preparations for ShelterBox aid distribution.

ShelterBox Operational Manager Alf Evans says: "We have been in frequent touch with other aid agencies, making clear our willingness and capability to help. Our initial response will see the 1,000 shelter kits deployed from Subang, and distributed with CARE International. Once we have ShelterBox response team members on the ground we will be aiming to make further contributions to partnership work on shelter and repair."

First images from Port Vila show most buildings to be badly damaged, and a pilot flying over some of Vanuatu's 65 inhabited islands reported similar scenes of destruction across remote communities. There is a communications blackout beyond Port Vila, so it is hard to assess the extent of damage or the humanitarian need, though aid workers on the ground have already likened it to Typhoon Haiyan which struck the Philippines 16 months ago.

Vanuatu's President Baldwin Lonsdale, who is in Japan attending a conference on disaster reduction, described the cyclone as a 'monster.' He thanked the international aid community for their quick response. Many of the country's essential services, including schools, hospitals and power generation, are in disarray. The confirmed death toll of eight people is expected to rise sharply as rescuers reach outlying communities.

Cyclone Pam is a category five storm, with winds now said to have peaked at 185mph. It veered off its expected course and struck Vanuatu early on Saturday, local time. It is now heading towards New Zealand, and though it has weakened severe weather warnings have been issued.

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