Cyclone Pam hit the island nation of Vanuatu on Friday, March 13 as a Category 5 storm. At least 15 people died, +166,000 were affected and in urgent need food assistance, at least 75,000 were homeless and 110,000 were without potable water at the height of the response. Approximately 90% of structures in the main island of Efate were destroyed or damaged, and whole villages were wiped out across the smaller islands.
Almost all communication lines were damaged and 80% of power lines were down, severely disrupting information on the humanitarian situation and needs, especially from outlying southern islands. Port Vila’s international airport was initially closed due to damage, making it difficult for aid workers to move into the area quickly and make an accurate assessment of the damage.
Responding to the worst disaster in the history of Vanuatu, Airlink and its partners mobilized quickly. Thanks to partnerships with United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, Airlink helped 8 immediate response personnel travel from the US and Malawi to assess the damage and begin to help the islands rebuild.
Four volunteers from Team Rubicon USA deployed to Tarawa island to help rebuild Betio Hospital, a 23-bed facility serving 20,000 people.
All Hands Volunteers deployed their 4-person DART to manage work with the government on assessments, provide skilled labor to help repair damaged homes, and assist with debris removal where homes could not be salvaged.
Disaster Tech Lab deployed 2 personnel to perform drone reconnaissance, conduct damage assessments, and begin restoring infrastructure.
Working with LIFT, YachtAid Global, and Hawaiian Airlines, Airlink helped Waves for Water move large-scale water purification units to the archipelago, helping more than 30,000 people gain access to clean water.