Tropical Cyclone Pam slammed Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, on Friday 13th March 2015.

The category five cyclone (the highest level rating for a severe Tropical Cyclone) has been described as the strongest storm to make landfall since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November 2013.

An estimated 103,000 people in Vanuatu have been affected. Power and phone lines are down, mobile communications have been intermittent and contact with outer islands has not been possible so far.

While Vanuatu has been hit the hardest, thousands more in nine countries across the Pacific have been affected or are threatened by severe weather systems.

Red Cross spokesperson in Tuvalu, Claire Shave, says a large number of people are affected on the outer islands.

"Some of the outer islands have had a very bad couple of nights indeed. They've had water washing away houses, buildings, community halls, that sort of thing.

"In addition, because the land is very flat they've had disturbance to some grave sites which is causing a great deal of distress."

Aurelia Balpe, head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Pacific says, “Tens of thousands of people are still in the middle of a terrifying ordeal and we need to urgently assess the humanitarian needs and start meeting them as soon as possible”.

Red Cross has begun its emergency response and is distributing emergency supplies to those affected.

We are working closely with local authorities and other actors to support the government-led response. Shelter, water, food and first aid remain a priority.

Emergency response teams have been activated and assessments are being carried out in Tuvalu and Kiribati, where associated sea swells have caused significant damage.

New Zealand Red Cross is sending aid workers, funds, 1,300 tarpaulins and 200 first aid kits to Vanuatu. The Tropical Cyclone Pam appeal has also been launched to provide support to the region.

For further information contact: Hanna Butler, IFRC communications delegate in Vanuatu 

Hanna.Butler@redcross.org.nz / +64 27 836 5529 / Twitter: @hannarosebutler

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