Dozens feared dead as cyclone pounds Pacific island of Vanuatu

Dozens feared dead as cyclone pounds Pacific island of Vanuatu
# 14 March 2015 04:15 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. A huge tropical cyclone smashed into Vanuatu in the South Pacific, terrifying residents and leaving "complete devastation" with fears Saturday that dozens of people may have died, APA reports quoting AFP.

The full extent of the damage is unknown, with limited communications in place after maximum category five storm Cyclone Pam slammed directly into the island country with winds up to 330 kilometres (205 miles) an hour overnight.

"We could see some loss of life, potentially serious loss but we don't know yet," Sune Gudnitz, who heads the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Pacific, told AFP.

"The feedback is that there appears to be quite widespread devastation. There is debris in the streets and widespread flooding."

The UN had unconfirmed reports of 44 people killed in one province.

Save the Children's Tom Skirrow, speaking from the capital Port Vila, said: "The scene here this morning is complete devastation -- houses are destroyed, trees are down, roads are blocked and people are wandering the streets looking for help.

"Communications are down across much of the country with the total extent of the devastation unlikely to be known for several days," he said, adding that aid agencies faced a massive challenge.

Aid worker Chloe Morrison said she had spent the night in the capital Port Vila bunkering down in fear.

"There are reports from our other colleagues of entire villages being literally blown away overnight," she told Australian Associated Press.

"Local houses and leaf huts would have been picked up like confetti last night."

Unicef spokeswoman Alice Clements described the cyclone, as "15-30 minutes of absolute terror" for "everybody in this country" as it passed over.

"We have some very unconfirmed reports of casualties from the outer islands as well but we're waiting to get official confirmation on those, which is very sad news if it's true," she told Radio New Zealand.