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Cyclone Pam – you have not destroyed the people of Vanuatu

World Vision
18 March 2015 by Chloe Morrison
Cyclone Pam – you have not destroyed the people of Vanuatu

Elder Tom and Chief John show the damage Cyclone Pam has wrought in their community in Vanuatu. Photo by Chloe Morrison, World Vision

Chloe Morrison, an Australian, is based in Port Vila for World Vision. Chloe is currently doing Communications for the organisation’s emergency response in Vanuatu, following Cyclone Pam’s impact.

It’s been five days since Cyclone Pam hit Port Vila and I barely remember it happening.

The past five nights have been a blur of sleeplessness, worry and uncertainty.

In the past five days I spent a lot of time talking about Cyclone Pam – 18 hours a day in fact – and no time processing it.

I can still hear vividly the sound of bits of tin roof being lifted off houses and flying into the one I was bunkered down in.

I can still remember the pitch black of the room unable to see anything going on around me, only hearing and imagining the worst.

I remember the sounds, but right now it’s almost as if it didn’t happen to me.

I’ve spent the past five days describing the most terrifying event of my life – the cyclone shutters that hammered the windows and doors, the wind roared like an ocean like it would pick up everything in its path. But looking around Efate it’s as if Cyclone Pam didn’t happen to me.

3. Port Vila_MW

‘Local houses and leaf huts would have been picked up like confetti’ during Cyclone Pam, says World Vision’s Chloe Morrison. Photo by Chloe Morrison, World Vision

 

Yes, I spent nine hours bunkered down waiting for a category 5 cyclone slamming into the house, trees being uprooted, and waiting for windows to shatter into pieces – everyone in Vanuatu did.

The worse thing that happened to my house is that the locks rusted overnight and I couldn’t get in.

In comparison, I’ve spent the past five days talking to people who have lost everything.

I’ve seen villages absolutely decimated. Corrugated iron houses twisted unrecognisably like aliminum foil origami. I have sat with women on what was once the roof of their market houses – totally flattened to the ground – they have lost the one place they had to earn a small income selling goods to tourists.

My work colleagues have not been able to hear from their family on other islands because all telecommunications are down. All satellite towers toppled over like toothpicks. This is on islands where you play a solo game of Twister just to get reception at the best of times!

I’ve met mothers who tried to drown out the sounds of Cyclone Pam by holding their children as tight as they could – of course nothing could drown out those sounds.
And as I’ve been talking to people who have lost everything except their lives, I’ve been amazed by the spirit of people.

Children who took me to their classroom that is now just a pile of rubble, told me with a smile how they are looking after their younger brothers and sisters.

These children no longer have a school to attend, as it was destroyed by Cyclone Pam. Photo by Chloe Morrison, World Vision

These children no longer have a school to attend, as it was destroyed by Cyclone Pam. Photo by Chloe Morrison, World Vision

Everyone I’ve spoken to is just grateful they’ve survived and are alive – and now they’re doing their best to rebuild. Community kitchens have been set up to feed whole villages, teenagers are playing with young children, and men are cutting firewood.

Cyclone Pam – you decimated my Island home – but you have not destroyed the people of Vanuatu.

You can donate to World Vision Australia’s Cyclone Pam Appeal to help survivors in Vanuatu. 

Chloe Morrison Chloe Morrison

Chloe is Grants and Communications Officer for World Vision in Vanuatu.

 

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