Severe tropical cyclones are no strangers to the South Pacific - but they often go unnoticed because they do not usually affect any inhabited places in the vast expanses of the ocean. Not so tropical cyclone Pam! After a steady intensification over the last few days it developed into a storm of the highest intensity and, veering more to the west than initially forecast, it struck directly at Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila during the night of March 13 to March 14.
Given the destruction of communication networks and the wide distances between some of the islands of Vanuatu, it will take days until the full picture of devastation is clear. But reports from the ground confirm the worst fears. A number of people have already been confirmed dead, and many more will have been injured by falling objects and flying debris. This not enough, a large number of people is expected to have lost everything they have built up, including their entire homes. The remoteness of the islands makes relief operations a tremendous logistical challenge. My thoughts are with the victims as they prepare for the first night after the disaster, and I hope that medicine, food and shelter reaches those in need as quickly as possible. My respect and gratitude go to those helpers and organisations already on the ground in Vanuatu.
Private insurance is not widely bought in Vanuatu. Thus, there will be few insurance policy payouts to help mitigate the financial aftermath of tropical cyclone Pam. However, the government of Vanuatu decided three years ago to participate in a regional disaster insurance scheme (Pacific Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Programme) together with some of its Pacific island neighbours. While the entitlement to payouts is not yet confirmed, it seems very likely that the government of Vanuatu will receive funding for its rebuilding efforts through this particular insurance product, reducing the financial burden on citizens, who are already dealing with lost homes, businesses and unfortunately loved ones.
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Disaster risk, Floods/storms