Free Press Journal

Major tropical cyclone hits South Pacific island


Port Vila: A Category 5 cyclone, one of the strongest storms seen in the South Pacific in years, hit Vanuatu island on Friday, threatening the lives of its 260,000 inhabitants, media reports said.

Cyclone Pam hit the island’s capital city Port Vila on Friday afternoon with sustained wind speed of 270 km per hour, CNN reported, adding that evacuation alerts have been issued for several parts of the country. The report said that palm trees were seen being whipped by wind and rain.

The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) warned that 260,000 people were in the middle of the potential disaster zone. The Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office also urged residents to seek immediate shelter, according to The Independent daily.

The archipelago nation has 83 small islands, many of which have little infrastructure and lack the strong housing structures that can endure such a storm. “Everybody is concerned about shelter, ensuring that the shelters are going to be strong enough for them,” Alice Clements of Unicef was quoted as saying. Parts of Vanuatu are likely to see floods exceeding 16 inches, according to a forecast.