Vanuatu, a nation highly vulnerable to natural disasters, is facing the challenge of resilience once again, having experienced three cyclones in just eight months. Cyclone Lola, which initially struck Pentecost Island as a Category 5 storm, has left a devastating impact on the country.
More than 10,000 households have been affected by Cyclone Lola, with some being completely destroyed, including schools. The provinces of Malampa, Senma, Penama, and Torba in the northeast were the hardest hit. Initial assessments by humanitarian aid groups and Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management staff were underway.
The New Zealand, Australian, and French Defense forces were prepared to provide further aid and assess the extent of the damages. Although Cyclone Lola has been downgraded to a tropical low, the government is working closely with humanitarian organizations to provide immediate relief to the most affected areas.
Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai, flew over the worst-affected regions aboard a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to survey the initial damage. He reassured the people of Pentecost and all the affected provinces that the government would do its best to provide assistance and address their immediate needs.
Kendra Derousseau, the Head of World Vision Vanuatu, reported that there were “currently no injuries or deaths reported,” but a “large medical ship was on its way.” The Helper One ship run by Respond Global returned to Port Vila to load up with medical personnel and supplies, attending to the injured.
While reports from Vanuatu’s Natural Disaster Management Office were still being finalized, the communications team provided details about the worst damage. Schools on Pentecost Island suffered extensive damage, with roofs blown off, classrooms flooded, and buildings torn apart by fallen trees. Many schools had not fully recovered from twin cyclones in March, let alone Cyclone Harold in 2020, and some were still using tarpaulin sheets to cover classrooms.
UNICEF Pacific child protection officer Rebecca Olul emphasized the devastating impact of frequent cyclones on children and their families, with “cyclones becoming the new normal.” She noted that children as young as six years old had experienced at least three to four Category 4 or 5 cyclones in their lifetime, leading to trauma and the need to rebuild repeatedly.
Olul expressed gratitude to New Zealanders who were looking to support those impacted by Cyclone Lola through donations to organizations like UNICEF, World Vision, and the Red Cross. She highlighted the early arrival of Cyclone Lola as a sign of the Pacific region bearing the brunt of climate change, despite contributing minimal carbon emissions compared to other nations. The frequency and severity of cyclones in the Pacific serve as a stark reminder of the consequences of the global climate crisis.