Vanuatu cyclone devastation reaches the Coast
WHEN Jimmy Kaluat last spoke to his mum, the worst cyclone in Vanuatu's history was bearing down on her village.
"I could hear 'the kitchen is going, it's going'," the Yandina resident said.
Anxious for news of his loved ones, Mr Kaluat prayed all Friday night and waited.
Communications with the South Pacific archipelago were cut after the category 5 Cyclone Pam struck land on Friday night.
The cyclone took the worst possible path through the capital Port Vila, home to 45,000 people, and only a short 15-minute drive from the home of Mr Kaluat's parents and four siblings in Pango village.
Mr Kaluat said he felt helpless as he realised how severe the storm was becoming.
"I feel so down and upset," he said.
"There's nothing you can do though. That was just the start of the cyclone."
The extent of the damage across Vanuatu's 83 islands is unknown. However aid workers reportedly feared entire villages could have been wiped out, and eight people had yesterday been confirmed dead.
Mobile phones and Facebook became the only methods of communication for friends and family searching for information on their loved ones, Mr Kaluat said.
"All the telephone lines are down, all you can do is text. But they can only receive texts, they can't reply," Mr Kaluat said.
The news Mr Kaluat was hoping for finally arrived yesterday morning through text messages from his friends.
His family's "tin shack" was gone, but his loved ones were safe.
Half of his family had taken shelter, along with many others, in a church house at Pango. The other half had gone to Port Vila CBD and "hid" in brick houses, he said. "I was so relieved," Mr Kaluat said. "The hardest thing was, I was trying to get to them the next morning and it was so hard because on the news you could see people were dying.
"You just hoped it was not one of your close family."
More than 30 people with family or friends in Vanuatu belong to Nambour's Flame Tree Church, said church member Andy Chapman.
"The hardest part for people, especially for Vanuatu people living away, is not knowing," he said.