Melanesian Women Today had a chance to speak to Mr. John Tari-Sine who is a local business owner in Port Vila about the current conditions on the ground regarding the aftermath of the cyclone Pam. You can read the transcript here, or listen to the audio.
I really don’t know how all this is going to happen. In the past, the Prime Minister (Walter Lini’s Government) would have already addressed the nation on air by this time about what to expect next. At this point communication has really broken down. The radio keeps playing only religious music and nothing more since last night and this morning. There was electricity at the Grand Hotel last night and people were allowed to charge their phones. This happened as well at the Melanesian Hotel. Everywhere people are looking for places to charge their phones to call their loved ones outside of Port Vila.
Communication with the outer islands is still cut off. We tried this morning to call Pentecost (in the north) but could not get through.
I am standing outside the Vanuatu Holiday Hotel and I am looking out all around me and you can see everywhere. People are just walking around and don’t know what to do.
The coconut trees, there are no coconuts left so people can’t drink them. Many trees are just simply broke in half. Many of the light posts made out of iron are broken and laying on the ground. There is no drinking water yet. The ocean is very dirty and still very rough. Many sailboats are on top of reefs or just turned over where they were. All the fruit from the fruit trees is gone.
So it is a good question, how are people going to survive? We can survive on the bananas that are left for about 1 or 2 or 3 weeks but what happens after that? The one food that we can survive on is kumara (sweet potatoes) and Fiji taro because it is in the ground. Other crops (Aelan Kakae) have been damaged and are no longer ok to eat.
In terms of water the people in the outer will be able to drink water once it is settled and clean. In the meantime, those living in the urban area will have difficulty to try and get clean water because we depend on the water supply. We haven’t had drinking water for 2 days now. I don’t know how this is going to work out.
The Prime Minister has not addressed the country yet so the people don’t know what to expect. We do not have leaves to cook our food in, we do have fire wood but what are we going to cook? The people in the islands they will have food but all of us in Port Vila, we depend too much on rice and other foods you buy from the store. The stores are closed still because there is no electricity. People are just hanging around. Since the cyclone started we still haven’t been to the store yet to buy food because the stores are not open. I think the stores will open today? I am not sure.
At the moment life is really really hard. I personally think that we need help from outside of Vanuatu in a few days’ time. We need food, water, everyone is really affected. The big question is how are we going to survive? If only one island was affected then food can come from other island. But this storm has affected every single island, and every single family has been affected. In terms of food, people in the islands can start planting food right away, especially island cabbage. I think after about six months’ time people can begin eating manioc, kumara, and yam again. But for the time being it is going to be really hard.
Now the sun has come up and people are out and about looking at their homes and the place. The sun is strong and there is no shade. There is water everywhere so people are up high in the bare trees looking down at their houses. Some people have mattresses in the branches much like seeing refugees. The kids are crying because we don’t know what they will eat. They cry for their moms because they want water. For example, my grandson (9 years old) was crying for water and we don’t have a way to get water. We have save what little water we have at the hotel where we are staying. I don’t believe there is any water in any of the neighborhoods in Port Vila.
The radio hasn’t said how many people have died. If the radio had said then I could tell you how many have died. I did not see any dead bodies but two people are believed to be dead, they were from Tanna. They were hired by white men to look after some boats in the harbor. It isn’t clear but more information will come out in the next few days.
Have you seen any mothers, children, older people or disabled people?
Yesterday, when I was scouting the area I did not see any disabled people. Hopefully they are with their families. They are surviving with whatever they have right now. For the upcoming days I am not sure how they will cope.
The disaster office has not sorted out the plans for exactly what is going to happen. There is a lot of people who need help so they haven’t decided yet. The government has said they won’t be able to help everyone; they can only help some people. Shefa province has been declared a disaster zone that came out on the radio last night.
All the older people will have to depend on their families to take care of them now. Some of the families who have taken shelter in the same hotel as us are now leaving the hotel to go back to their place.
Can you reach anyone in the outer islands?
We have not been able to reach anyone in the outer islands. We tried to call to Pentecost this morning but we could not get through. The towers have been destroyed so there is no communication. It depends on the companies, organizations, and government to fix that.
What about the schools?
The schools are damaged heavily. It looks to me like it will take months before the kids can go back to school. To start the schools again the government will have to do a lot of repair and work.
Anything else you want to say to those outside of Vanuatu?
The Prime Minister has not said anything yet. We will need help from outside the country. We need help in every way, especially basic needs. We need food and water, especially in Port Vila. We really need help now.
Gramham Crumb of Humans of Vanuatu took this picture of the aftermath of the cyclone Pam (category 5). This is a house is Mele Village which is the largest village in Vanuatu that has been completely destroyed by cyclone Pam on Friday the 13th of March, 2015. Cyclone Pam has been described as the largest cyclone ever to have hit the South Pacific in history. On March 13th at exactly 3:14am, he posted this words exactly on the Humans of Vanuatu Facebook Page:
"Folks, I'll be honest. It's really bad out there. The wind is howling with a deep roar that just doesn't let up. Anyone not in shelter now is in mortal danger. Frankly, I don't think our country will make it through this without some deep scars. Think a good thought". Gramham Crumb. The next day, the capital of Vanuatu, Port Vila was not the same again as well as the rest of the outer islands.