Workers unload children’s aid.
Workers unload children’s aid.

Medical, search and rescue teams head to Vanuatu

AS THE death toll continues to rise in Vanuatu after the devastation of Cyclone Pam, Australia will spend about $8.5 million sending extra medical and search and rescue teams to the region.

After already contributing $5 million in humanitarian aid, and medical and consular staff, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced more help for the Pacific nation reeling from the cyclone.

A plane is expected to leave Darwin on Wednesday carrying an extra 20 medical staff including doctors, nurses, a radiologist and pharmacists, who will help set up a temporary hospital outside the significantly damaged Port Vila hospital.

The teams will be rostered on for a fortnight to help Vanuatu's own response.

The Australian teams will focus on preventing diseases, as well as rectifying the hospital.

While some media have reported up to 20 deaths, Ms Bishop said she could not confirm a figure.

But she anticipated the death toll would increase as aid groups accessed heavily damaged southern islands.

Ms Bishop said an extra 50 urban search and rescue staff would also fly to Vanuatu to help search rubble in the most damaged southern islands, where up to 80% of homes and buildings have been partly or completely destroyed.

She said Australia had also flown 190 people back to Australia, including 166 Australian citizens.

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