On March 13th, 2015, approximately 66,000 people across Vanuatu, were left homeless when Cyclone Pam, a category 5 tropical storm, tore through the country.
When the cyclone struck, Luis Lomai was in her family home in Lamanian village in West Tanna, together with her husband, seven children and two grandchildren. They were soon forced to move elsewhere after the walls and roof of the house collapsed around them. Together the family dodged flying debris as they sought refuge in neighboring homes. They were forced to continue their flight three times after the winds tore apart each place where they sheltered.
Miraculously the family escaped the cyclone unscathed, but Luis and her family were left feeling defeated after seeing the damage the cyclone had caused to their home and garden.
“Our whole house fell down. I felt as though there was no way to go on, no hope,” Luis recalls. Hers was one of 24 families in the community to lose their homes. Only five buildings were left standing.
One year on and life in Lamanian village is slowly returning to normal.
“People are happy but life is hard,” says Luis. “There is no water and no food. The sun is very strong and there’s been very little rain. We replanted the garden but now it is too hot and we need to make money.”
Whilst progress has certainly been made, the dry spell caused by the current El Nino weather event in the Pacific has compounded the lasting damage from the cyclone and hindered the community’s efforts to fully recover.
After the cyclone, Luis and her family received one of 900 shelter toolkits distributed by the Vanuatu Red Cross Society in the West Tanna region. The kits included essential items such as tools, ropes, nails and cyclone straps which they used to construct a temporary shelter to house the family. In time Luis hopes to build a stronger home, one that is able to withstand the force of another disaster, “but this will take time” she says. In the meantime she is hoping that the rains will come to bring some relief to the village.
Emergency shelter toolkits and fixing kits and other relief items distributed by the Vanuatu Red Cross have been supplied by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), French Red Cross (FRC) in collaboration with the Australian Government and Australian Red Cross.