US$50 million Vanuatu twin cyclone disaster cost

The initial estimate of the recovery cost following Vanuatu’s twin cyclone disaster is estimated at six billion vatu (US$50 million).

Cyclones Judy and Kevin caused extensive damage and plunged parts of Vanuatu into a state of emergency.

However, Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau said the true cost is yet to be determined.

He said at the moment he is focused on reinstalling confidence back in the system.

While communication in Port Vila is, for the most part, up and running, lines to other islands remain cut off.

Kalsakau said rapid assessment teams have been dispatched.

“Once we get our communication lines fully open, and our power lines restored, we’ll be able to get the figures right away,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the hope is to have communication restored before the end of this week with the help of foreign aid.

The damage is extensive, he said.

“We are still taking stock. At the moment, the total response cost will be about six million vatu (US$50 million),” Kalsakau said.

That figure is just an initial amount, before full assessments have taken place.

All the while, ni-Vanuatu residents on small islands in Shefa Province remain cut off from Port Vila.

Kalsakau said islands in Tafea Province are also cut off and badly damaged.

“Our reports clearly report the cyclones developing into category four when they left Efate.

“The reports were devastating,” he said.

“People have no connection to Port Vila at the present time, they are trying to rebuild their shelters, it’s difficult to gauge their reaction at the moment, they’re relying on local crops. But as time goes by, because of the substantial rain, we would need dry rations, but that’s already on the way,”

He said usually dry rations are needed after three weeks but some of the response teams that have already been dispatched have such food items with them for immediate need.

The HMAS Canberra was due to arrive by Thursday morning with more than 600 Australian Defence Force personnel on board along with humanitarian supplies.

“We are very grateful that the HMAS Canberra is coming with three helicopters, which will enable us to take our people to the islands. And then there are quite a number of personnel as well who are there on those boats, to enable us to be able to get our communication lines up.”

“When we put our hands together and our minds together, we’ll be able to achieve a lot in a short time.

“We’re so grateful. There has been tremendous support that’s been extended by all families around the world to Vanuatu during this time.

“I thank all of our donor partners from Australia, New Zealand, EU, UK and France for responding.”

While authorities are taking stock of the damage, affected families and communities are helping each other rebuild homes, restoring water systems and clearing blocked roads.

A RSE worker from Vanuatu says all the money he earns in New Zealand will be sent back to help rebuild his country.

Emanuel Roslyn flew into Auckland with around 60 other workers on the first flight out of the country Wednesday afternoon.

His father’s home was flattened, leaving him sheltering in Port Vila.

“It was really really bad… Only a day separated the cyclones so there was no time to even try and fix your home because there was another one coming,” he said.

The decision to leave for seven months so soon after the cyclones was hard for everyone, Roslyn said.

“Some of them thought ‘oh maybe we shouldn’t go’, but I encouraged them, I said it’s an opportunity for you to go there and earn money and then you can rebuild your home. It’s hard… but we have to [do it].”

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