Help Vanuatuans rebuild homes and lives after Cyclone Pam

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (March 22, 2015) A 71-year-old survivor of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu has an amazing tale to tell. “The wind was so strong, we couldn’t hear the tree fall,” said Lawrence Bahor. His hand was also badly cut by the corrugated iron roof that was torn off his house.

When the cyclone struck a week ago, he was huddling inside his house with four other family members, in the small village of Erangarang.

After the raging winds tore off the roof, his family tried to move to another part of the house. “We didn’t hear the big tree falling. We were so surprised! The roof, the walls, everything fell down. As the roof was flying off, I got a big cut on my hand.”

His wife tried to come out of one of the rooms but she was trapped when part of the roof fell on her. After family members managed to free her, they gathered in a circle and tried to take cover under some debris. “There was nowhere to go. The blood was running out of my hand all night,” Bahor said.

He added: “I was thinking, ‘how am I going to be saved?’ A tree fell on my house. I’m supposed to die.”

The winds finally subsided after the night has passed. Bahor and his family survived but their house was destroyed. He climbed over felled trees that blocked the road and made his way to a clinic in town where he received treatment.

With his arm in a sling, Bahor has an air of strength to him. He wants to rebuild his home.

“I’ve lived here since 2005,” he said. “I want to stay here in the village.”

The population of 450 people in Erangarang is doing what they can to clean up. They want to rebuild their homes but have little resources. The cyclone has wiped out the agricultural village’s crops. “Manioc, banana, all gone,” said Bahor as he pointed to the remnants of his crops.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 166,000 people on 22 islands are affected by the 13 March disaster. Approximately 14,000 homes are reportedly destroyed or damaged in the provinces of Penama, Malampa, Shefa and Tafea. In its 22 March situation report, UNOCHA cited the lack of shelter materials as a key factor hampering the return of displaced people to rebuild their homes.

In Erangarang, villagers are motivated to seek materials and tools to rebuild their village. Bahor said: “I need timber, a corrugated iron roof, and a chainsaw.”