TANNA, Vanuatu (Christian Examiner) – Four days after deadly Cyclone Pam smashed into the Pacific Island chain, Samaritan's Purse sent a multinational team of disaster response experts and over 70 tons of supplies to respond to emergency needs.
The category 5 storm—the strongest since Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines in November 2013—devastated Vanuatu last Friday and Saturday with torrential rains and winds up to 185 miles per hour.
The official death toll in the nation with a population of approximately 267,000 is eight, but rising in the cluster of 65 islands located some 2,000 miles east of Australia.
Dispatched from its international headquarters in the United States and offices in Australia, Cambodia, and the Philippines, the team of experts was joined by a medical team of two doctors and four nurses with medical supplies, according to Samaritan's Purse.
"[There's] devastation as far as the eye can see," a Samaritan's Purse ministry partner in Vanuatu said.
Port Vila, home to about 47,000, was hit hard, according to the international relief ministry, with 90 percent of the homes destroyed, trees and power lines downed – and people wandering the streets looking for assistance.
"The electricity is out, the communications are down, the buildings are flattened, and people are in dire need," said Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Programs and Government Relations for Samaritan's Purse. "One of the biggest concerns is that it's a chain of islands and there are only airports in Port Vila and another island to the south called Tanna. The other smaller islands, we really don't know yet. But we expect that the needs will be for shelter, clean water, medical treatment, and non-food items such as hygiene supplies and blankets."
Team members are assessing damages and needs, according to the organization, and meeting storm victims like a 34-year-old mother of four, Kathleen.
At home with her husband and children when the storm hit, Kathleen said it was entirely destroyed. She and her husband held the kids so they would not blow away, but they were exposed to the wind and cold rain and are now sick.
The family is living in a meeting room of a nearby office building which was emptied for it and other families who are now homeless.
The nation' president, Baldwin Lonsdale told news outlets the storm has been daunting.
"This is a very devastating cyclone," Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale told news outlets. "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."
Samaritan's Purse, which works "in the name of Jesus," asked for prayer for the people of Vanuatu: "Pray that God will bring hope and healing in the wake of the storm."
To learn more about helping the victims of Cyclone Pam, go here.