Vanuatu Begins Relief Efforts After Massive Cyclone Hits, Struggles to Assess Damage

Vanuatu struggled on Sunday to survey the death toll and damage caused by Cyclone Pam, which slammed into the South Pacific island nation early Saturday.
The storm's death toll is uncertain due to severe damage to Vanuatu's communications infrastructure, but early reports have pegged the number of dead anywhere from two to eight people; that number is expected to rise once power lines and phone circuits are restored.
UNICEF New Zealand executive director Vivien Maidaborn said the devastation is widespread, and that the worst damage likely occurred on Vanuatu's outer islands, where Cyclone Pam hit hardest.
Maidaborn said in a statement, “While communications continue to be compromised with only one mobile tower operational in Port Vila, we have received estimates that 90% of homes in the capital have been damaged or destroyed. While updates from elsewhere have yet to emerge, this doesn’t bode well for many homes further afield in Vanuatu, which tend to be built with natural and local materials, such as thatched and corrugated roofs that are vulnerable to strong winds and floods."