'We're running short of food and water.. nobody is coming' Residents despair after Cyclone Pam batters Vanuatu.
RESIDENTS of the southern Vanuatu island of Tanna told how they were running out of food and basic supplies yesterday after a huge cyclone tore across the South Pacific.
Relief workers were still battling to reach many of the islands pummelled by Cyclone Pam's gusts of more than 300kph at the weekend.
With communications cut off and reconnaissance flights revealing destroyed houses, shredded forests and damaged buildings, international aid agencies had been particularly worried about Tanna which bore the full force of the storm.
A witness on the island of 29,000 people, around 200km south of Vanuatu's capital Port Vila, said while damage was extensive it appeared most of the population had survived by sheltering in schools, churches and other sturdy buildings.
Ropate Vuso, 67, told Reuters: "People sheltered in school buildings. We were helping one another.
"We are running short of food, water, shelter and electricity.
"We have no communications. We are still waiting for the people from parliament, the chief and the president, but still nobody is coming." There were unconfirmed reports of four deaths in and around Tanna's main town.
Oxfam spokesman Colin Collett van Rooyen said an assessment flight over the island of Erromango, north of Tanna with a population of around 2,000, had revealed huge destruction there too.
He added: "What we have seen is damage in some villages at the upper range of 70, 80, 90%, one village in particular 100%. These are small villages but massive destruction."
The UN said yesterday the official death toll from the cyclone was 11, revising down its earlier figure of 24, but many officials anticipate that number would rise once they are able to more thoroughly inspect the outer islands of the scattered archipelago.
In Port Vila the clean-up was progressing after trees were uprooted and homes flattened but there were worries about food scarcity and health after the main local food market was destroyed and the city's hospital severely damaged.
Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said it was sending a 20-strong emergency medical assistance team of doctors, nurses, paramedics and a pharmacist.
They plan to set up a temporary ward in the car park of the damaged Port Vila hospital capable of treating up to 40 patients.
Thousands are still staying in shelters overnight, with a 6pm-6am curfew in place to prevent looting.
The majority of locals rely on foods sold at the downtown market such as taro, island cabbage, bananas, kumara and yams for their staple diet.
Shops selling tinned food were open and stocked in the capital but many locals do not have the money to buy them.
Shop owner Colette Calvo said: "We have water, but the situation is very bad because people don't have local food. All they can eat is food like bananas that they pick up off the ground and they can get sick."
Australia, which has already sent five planes with personnel and humanitarian supplies, dispatched another three aircraft yesterday. It also began loading its emergency response ship HMAS Tobruk, which is capable of driving onto beaches.
The situation is bad because people don't have local food SHOP OWNER vanuatu yesterday
DESTROYED House on Tanna in Vanuatu yesterday after cyclone struck
DESPERATE People wash their clothes on the beach
SUPPLIES Aid on-board an Australian Air Force plane