wind but some sort of beast, thick and visible, battling with the force of a million horses. Rain was bubbling under the windows, climbing up the glass instead of down it.
At 11.30pm, in the village of Mele, Ben Silva was battling the wind, standing outside on top of his roof were he would spend most of the night, hammering back bits of corrugated iron as they came lose. On the exposed, small island of Makira, people were seeking shelter in the five buildings that were left standing. Parents held doors and windows shut while children huddled in a corner. At The Grand Hotel, Thomas Masson, food and beverage manager, with dozens of the staff who had sought refuge at the Grand, were bucketing water out of the lower floors while a group of Croatian footballers were helping and laughing,
In the capital, people were on the move, trying to reach their houses, family and friends; dazed and confused, we searched for clear paths amongst the destruction. Up by the Harbour, a car slows down and the driver lowers his window. “Have you seen my boat? I can’t find my boat?” the confused face with bewildered eyes asked. “Your boat is gone mate, they are all gone, I am sorry,” was the response. Of the hundreds of boats moored in Port Vila Harbour, only a handful survived. By 11am chainsaws everywhere started to buzz, everybody already on the job, trying to wipe the cyclone off their front doors.
Promedical had already managed to assemble a team of 30 volunteers and were busy clearing the road to the airport in anticipation of the first aid planes to land. Some of the remarkable people who were there from day one had themselves lost everything in the cyclone. Long term Port Vila resident, Shaun Mcnamara
Promedical team member fills water containers to be distributed around Efate. Photo by Groovy Banana www.groovy-banana.com. This page top left: Port Vila harbour. Photo by Patricia Gil. Bottom Left: Bellevue area in Port Vila was hit hard by the cyclone. Photo by Patricia Gil. Right: Makira residents rush to the beach to retrieve fresh water. Jerome Brant’s boat Serenity carried over 3,000 litres of water from Save The Children to Makira island. Photo by Patricia Gil.
advanced steadily, restoring electricity to all areas of Efate, neighborhood by neighborhood. By April 3rd, 96% of electricity had been restored in Efate and the Unelco team moved on to Tanna. In Port Vila alone, there were over 1,500
According to Vanuatu Government Post-disaster Needs Assessment, the total economic value of the effect of the cyclone was estimated to be around VT42 billion. To give an indication of the massive scale of the damage, this is equivalent to 47% of Vanuatu’s GDP. It is also likely that losses are actually much higher than the given figure, due to the difficulties collecting data; the assessment was based on the best available information. For the agricultural sector, recovery needs are estimated to be around VT1.9 billion. It will take until the end of the year for weaving handicrafts to be restored, another three months for vegetable and fruit sales to be restored, one year for copra and cocoa to be restored and up to four years for kava to be fully restored. Vegetable sales, kava, weaving and copra are the biggest cash-generating strategies for rural people in Vanuatu. According to the Post-disaster Needs Assessment, short term priorities include the distribution of seeds, animal feed, planting materials, tools and equipment, and providing access to veterinary products and help with land clearing. The estimated cost of recovery for the tourism sector was set at VT2 billion. The assessment established the need to increase Vanuatu’s current marketing budget of VT159 million per year to VT477 million during 2015 and 2016. In the health sector, the total effect of Cyclone Pam was appraised to be VT976.7 million in damages and losses. 39 health facilities were damaged, comprising two hospitals, fifteen health centres and 22 dispensaries. The short-term Recovery Strategy cost to the Ministry of Health’s infrastructure, covering the next twelve months, has been calculated at VT 566.8 million. T he damage and losses incurred by the education sector are a total VT4 million, with Tafea province sustaining the highest damage. Damages to the transport sector, including infrastructure such as roads and bridges, are over VT3 billion, Shefa being the most affected province. The cyclone affected the livelihoods of over 40,000 households, limiting their capacity to generate income and result- ing in losses of VT702 billion in personal income. Thousands of houses and business were damaged, and every one of them will need to be repaired or rebuilt in the coming months so availability of materials and builders is a source of concern. Main hardware outlets ran out of generators the day after the cyclone and only a few days later, chainsaws and other clearing equipment was running low. “The generators were the first to go and later, it was gardening equipment, tarpaulins and jerry cans that people needed the most. It was hard work for us, to be able to keep up with the supply, but our staff worked very hard to get what was needed as fast as possible,” explained Nazario Fiakaifonu from Port Vila Hardware. “We are confident that we will be able to meet the demand for materials and tools and we have increased our ordering to meet the demand.” Builders and tradesmen have been swamped with work, requiring extra help from overseas to be able to tackle the work load. “Since the cyclone, we have doubled our team from 40 to 80 staff as well as bringing in overseas builders to help us meet the demand,” explains Ryan Foots, director of building company Vancorp. “We have given over 100 quotations and are working on 25 different projects at the moment, all cyclone related. All suppliers have been working very hard as well to be able to meet the demand and are doing a great job at making sure that we have what is needed to rebuild the country,” Ryan added. Adam Chamberlain, managing director of Switched-on, is also confident that the country will be able to cope with the demand for tradesmen and materials. “Initially our main objective was to ensure our customers and residents of Port Vila were not in danger from any damage caused by the cyclone. We helped Unelco to reconnect power; this was a massive undertaking and Unelco did a fantastic job coordinating the repair works to ensure people had electricity supply as soon as possible. It was a major effort with our staff working twelve hours a day; we are very lucky to have a great team. Now we are working on repairs to business and private houses. No doubt this will be a huge task but I am sure all the trades companies in Vanuatu are ready for it.” There were countless business in Vanuatu who worked many stressful long days after the cyclone and it was a remarkable effort from all the staff, many of whom had lost everything during the cyclone, yet showed up to work the next day and for the following weeks, worked hard long hours to do what needed to be done. Tradesmen and suppliers still have a long road ahead to rebuild the country but although materials and technical expertise will be available, it is money that is missing. With losses in the billions, the money the country needs to rebuild will need to be acquired from donors and if given as loans, Vanuatu will have a debt that will hold back its economy for decades. P ost-cyclone, two main themes for consideration have emerged when looking to the future. ‘Building back better’ is on everyone’s mind, with an emphasis on building stronger, cyclone-proof structures, especially public buildings such as schools, shelters and hospitals. In the housing sector, the medium to long term recovery needs identified by the government are; to ensure that communities have the technical assistance to build safer, to ensure that water needs are met when rebuilding communities, a revision of building standards, the identification of locations and structures suitable for safe evacuation sites, a multi-hazard mapping of urban areas and action plan identifying safe areas for future growth, and the adoption of a national housing policy. The second theme is the clear need for diversification of crops and growing locations, with an emphasis on having a larger variety of crops in every island and more cyclone and climate change resistant crops. A lthough the sun is shining, people are, as always, still smiling and Vanuatu is as beautiful as ever, the country has a long road ahead to its full recovery. We can only hope that those in charge are able to make the right and wise decisions that will build a better, more prosperous and equitable nation.