Cyclone Pam hits the hearts of Haida Gwaii

  • Apr. 6, 2015 8:00 a.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverCyclone Pam devastated the island chain of Vanuatu March 14. While people on Haida Gwaii were enjoying a warm, calm weekend, Vanuatu was hit with torrential rain and 300-kilometer-per-hour winds. While the devastation occurred thousands of kilometres away, it has had an impact on at least one Haida Gwaii family.Dr. Lawrie Fawcett, who has worked out of Masset the past few years, spent over six months on one of the 83 small islands in the South Pacific archipelago, on the small island of Tanna. He and his wife are devastated by the news of the disaster in Vanuatu. Dr. Fawcett had been part of a program out of Victoria called Victoria-Vanuatu Physician Project (VIVA project). The project has sent Canadian Doctors to Vanuatu to work and provide basic health services to the southern islands of Vanuatu since 1991.Lenakel Hospital, which Dr. Fawcett worked at on Tanna, is now almost completely destroyed.”We are devastated by the news of the Disaster in Vanuatu,” Said Dr. FawcettThe Hospital once served the 30,000 people in the area and had 48 beds and one Doctor. Now, the hospital is predicted to have lost power and to have no clean water or sanitation system, leaving them unable to provide the basic medical services. There is still a roof on one side of the Hospital but all the tools and medical machinery are destroyed, Dr. Fawcett told the Observer. Australia’s military describes the island as “being flattened.”While residents of Haida Gwaii are safe and sound. Over 3,300 people in Vanuatu have been displaced. Twenty-four people were confirmed dead as of March 16. World Vision has lost contact with more than 30 staff members that were working in the area. Tanna is a very poor area to begin with, now people have lost any and all resources.Dr. Fawcett is understandably worried for the people he has helped and served on Tanna. “They are now facing starvation,” he said. He urges people to help by pressuring the federal government to dispatch Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to Tanna. The DART resource is uniquely poised to assist in short-term remediation in disaster areas, especially water sanitation, engineering, and primary medical care. The VIVA project is asking Canadians to email their MPs to get support to Vanuatu and Tanna.Canadian Red Cross is accepting donations to help with immediate medical, shelter and food aid to Vanuatu. Dr. Fawcett said that he wouldn’t be surprised if he found himself back in Tanna for the relief efforts. “We are devastated by the news of the disaster in Vanuatu, we served the wonderful people of Tanna,” said Dr. Fawcett. For information on donations and ways to contact government officials visit vivaproject.ca.

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