Vanuatu blames climate change for Cyclone Pam

Port Vila(NERVE): Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale said on Monday that climate change was responsible for more extreme weather and cyclone seasons in the Pacific nation, after Cyclone Pam devastated large parts of the country last week.

The powerful category five tropical cyclone wreaked havoc in the South Pacific nation on Saturday killing six people, according to official reports, though many more were feared dead, according to media reports.

The damage was still being assessed as aid workers scrambled to get to the affected areas on Monday morning, The Guardian reported.

Addressing a UN world conference in Japan’s Sendai on Monday, Lonsdale said that the storm was a major setback for the people of Vanuatu, virtually wiping out the island country’s development.

This is a very devastating cyclone… I term it a monster that has hit Vanuatu, he said. It is a setback for the government and for the people of Vanuatu… All the development that has taken place has been wiped out.

He said that the cyclone seasons that the nation experienced were directly linked to climate change.

We see the level of sea rise… the cyclone seasons, the warmth, the rain, all this is affected, he said.

As the leader of the nation, my heart hurts for the people of the whole nation, Lonsdale said.

President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who also attended the conference, extended his condolences to Lonsdale and urged action on climate change.

It is time to act… Let us match the rhetoric of these international gatherings with pledges and commitments, as leaders, to do our best to improve conditions and lives of those who need it most, he said.

For leaders of low-lying island atolls, the hazards of global warming affect our people in different ways, and it is a catastrophe that impinges on our rights… and our survival into the future.

The UN was to hold a major climate conference in Paris in November-December this year to thrash out a legally binding and universal agreement, which would replace the Kyoto Protocol, in order to tackle climate change.

Low-lying island nations of the world like Vanuatu and Kiribati run the risk of being submerged under rising sea levels as a result of global warming and the consequent melting of polar ice caps.

Cyclone Pam caused major infrastructure damage to Vanuatu with up to 90 percent of structures believed to have been levelled in the Efate island.

Winds were estimated to have reached 250 kmph, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The damage was also extensive in the capital Port Vila, which a Unicef officer said looked like having been hit by a bomb.

Unicef estimates that at least 60,000 children may be at risk, and have called for funding to take care of the children’s health needs, food and water.

Cyclone Pam travelled south after passing over Vanuatu, and reached New Zealand on Monday. The cyclone was downgraded from a category five storm, but conditions were poor in some areas of New Zealand.