Australia boosts Vanuatu cyclone relief effort

2015-03-20 11:03
A picture showing children outside their destroyed homes in the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila.(Unicef Pacific, AFP)

A picture showing children outside their destroyed homes in the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila.(Unicef Pacific, AFP)

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Sydney - Australia has sent a heavy lift naval ship to assist in cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu archipelago in the South Pacific where at least 13 have died and thousands have lost their homes.

"HMAS Tobruk has left overnight for Vanuatu with about 335 personnel on board and a helicopter," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a report by broadcaster ABC.

"So we will be in a better position to carry out reconnaissance and assistance on these outlying islands."

The mission involving the HMAS Tobruk brings to more than 500 the number of Australian personnel providing assistance that includes a field hospital in the capital Port Vila.

The cluster of dozens of islands where more than 250 000 people live was hardest hit by Tropical Cyclone Pam - the worst on record in the region - struck over the weekend.

Thirteen fatalities have been confirmed, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a situation report released Friday.

Thirty-nine evacuation centres were providing shelter to 3 995 people, the agency said.

"Water and food are major needs. Agricultural experts estimate that affected people will run out of food in less than one week," UN OCHA warned.

Aerial assessments, which the UN said were 80% complete, show widespread damage to infrastructure and crops.

The cyclone brought winds of more than 250km/h and flooding in Vanuatu.

Vanuatu's President Baldwin Lonsdale said the Pacific nation would have to "start anew" and appealed for help.

The effects of the cyclone were also felt on Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Fiji and New Zealand.

Australia, Vanuatu's biggest aid donor, is among several countries providing assistance.

Read more on:    vanuatu  |  weather  |  cyclones
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