Cyclone Pam has forced Vanuatu to 'start over,' president says

CBC staff
Vanuatu Cyclone Pam

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has lost years of development progress and must "start over" after Cyclone Pam destroyed or damaged 90 per cent of the buildings on the main island of Port Vila, the country's president said Monday.

Baldwin Lonsdale, visibly weary and red-eyed from lack of sleep, said in an interview that he and other top government officials were preparing to return home later Monday from Sendai, in northeastern Japan, where they were attending a disaster conference.

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Lonsdale said that the limited information he was able to get from home showed six people confirmed dead on Port Vila after the category 5 typhoon smashed across the Vanuatu archipelago. He said information from other islands was not available because most communication links were still not working.

"This is a very devastating cyclone in Vanuatu," Lonsdale said. "I term it as a monster, a monster. It's a setback for the government and for the people of Vanuatu. After all the development that has taken place, all this development has been wiped out."