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N.Wales man's mission to cyclone-hit island; DEVASTATION FEARED WHERE HE HELPED SET UP SCHOOL.

Byline: SARAH HODGSON

A FLINTSHIRE man living in Vanuatu was due to fly last night to the island where he set up a school to assess the damage Cyclone Pam has wreaked.

James Roberts from Saltney set up Vanuatu's Little Stars Summer School (VLSSS) on Pentecost, one of the country's 65 islands, two years ago but is yet to find out how badly it has been affected by the storm.

The former St David's High School pupil told the Daily Post yesterday of the relief efforts that have been launched in the devastated country and since then has seen a surge in donations from the North Wales area.

Cyclone Pam tore through the south pacific nation on Saturday with gusts of wind up to 185mph leaving communities across the country devastated and a state of emergency has been declared. At least 24 people are known to have died, but with communications down on many of the 65 islands, the toll is expected to rise.

James was taking a chartered flight in Pentecost on behalf of aid agency ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).

The 26-year-old described the day the storm hit as "apocalyptic".

He said: "We were actually on cyclone warning about a week before it came, we had been expecting it to hit earlier and it was pushed back. One of the issues was that there was almost a false pretence that it wasn't going to come or be as bad as it was. A lot of people just weren't prepared."

James took shelter in a friend's concrete house in the country's capital Port Vila during the fivehour storm, but says many others did not have such a sturdy shelter.

"We were in a sturdy cement house so it was never going to blow away but it still took a lot of damage. One of the upstairs windows smashed and lots of water was coming in, the ceiling is absolutely wrecked.

"The family I usually stay with in Port Vila prepared well putting sandbags on the roof and strapping it down, but people were passing by saying it was not going to be that bad. It ended up being one of the only houses left standing in the neighbourhood, all of the others were flattened or blown away."

He says during the storm he was more "emotional" thinking about what devastation the storm would cause for others in the community.

James says it is "difficult to tell" what damage has been caused on Pentecost and expects aid agencies will have a clearer picture for each island in the next 48 hours, describing the situation as "chaotic".

However he says that they are predicting the most urgent need will be making sure communities have access to clean water, followed by making sure everyone has shelter and food.

James says in Port Vila the clean-up operation began just hours after the storm finished.

He said: "The morning after people started moving to do repairs and all the roads were cleared.

"After 48 hours most people's houses were up, it was a bit messy still but miles better.

Stores and restaurants were open which was quite bizarre."

James and colleagues are hoping to raise PS50,000 to help those whose lives have been devastated by the storm and have already raised more than PS9,000 in just four days.

He said: "The relief fund is growing rapidly, the more money we get the more we can do.

"Since the Daily Post article yesterday sharing our link we've had a flurry of donations from North Wales which is so heartening to see and we are so grateful. It's amazing."

If you would like to donate visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/pentecostcyclonerelief

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| James Roberts, right, in Vanuatu; centre on far |right with staff and pupils of Little Stars Summer school; right, cyclone damage on Vanuatu
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:8VANU
Date:Mar 18, 2015
Words:642
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