Vanuatu News - History

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Vanuatu News - History

Life during Wartime: Vanuatu in World War II

This week the Captain is journeying back to the days of World War II as lived in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Dust off those history books, folks, class is in session.

PORT VILA - Though a young boy at the time, Wallace Andre clearly recollects that moment six decades ago when a U.S. dive bomber began to encounter trouble while paying a visit to his coastal village on the eastern edge of Vanuatu's capital island of Efate.

"Something happened," Wallace remembers. "Maybe the pilot looked back at us and became distracted. Nobody was ever sure."

Today a 74-year-old who sports patches of gray stubble, sandals, and a ball cap, he pushes his right palm in an upward arc to show how the plane attempted to maneuver just before it hit the tree.

A day that was intended to be one of generosity instead turned tragic, becoming Wallace's most vivid memory of when his Pacific island nation, then a joint British-French colony known as the New Hebrides, was overrun by American troops during World War II.

The first U.S. personnel arrived on Efate, a bucolic island of scurrying coconut crabs and flapping coconut palms, in March 1942 to begin setting up infrastructure and facilities from which to coordinate defenses against Japanese advances in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and beyond.

The Seabees, a construction battalion, worked with local labor to carve the first road around the island's circumference, to clear airfields, to build hospitals, and to install telephone lines. On the northern island of Santo an even larger garrison, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, was established a few months later. "I was amazed," Wallace says, "with how quickly the engineers worked with water and sand to make the roads."

Unlike other parts of the Pacific, where the war was raging on sand and sea, intense battles never reached Vanuatu. The approximately 60,000 Ni-Vanuatu living on the islands were therefore in the dark about the American activities. "I had no idea what was going on," Wallace explains.

Wallace's father was responsible for arranging the local labor for the offloading of cargo at Efate's northern Havana Harbor, which served as a port for U.S. activities. The mix of cultures and separation from home for the troops, which at their peek numbered slightly less than 20,000, led to conflicts. "Some treated us well," says Wallace of the Americans. "But others treated us poorly. There were a lot of problems in the villages. In secrecy some troops would take aside managers, like my father, and demand, 'Bring us some women.' If it didn't happen, they'd pull out a pistol, put it to the manager's head, and say, 'I'll shoot if you don't.'"

To this day, Wallace knows of at least one offspring fathered by an American G.I. "I was not mad," says Wallace, who today constructs Christian churches on Efate, of the American presence, "but I was very scared."

His father, however, managed to become friendly with quite a few Americans. Among them was a pilot, who suggested to Wallace's father that he fly his plane over their village as a gesture of friendship. "Tell me which house is yours," Wallace remembers the pilot saying to his father. Fortunately, their dwelling was the first in the village whose roof was constructed of corrugated metal sheeting, a very visible mark from the air.

The pilot's plane was a single engine, two-seat Douglas SBD Dauntless, which was used primarily for light bombing and reconnaissance. On the specified day two aircraft, each equipped with a pair of .30-caliber machine guns, departed Takara Airfield in north Efate and began the 20-kilometer journey down the island's coast in search of that shiny rooftop.

Wallace remembers first hearing the engines. He then looked up to see the two planes - one, flown by his father's friend, doing loops around the village and the other screaming back and forth along the length of the shore. "I took my shirt and waved it like crazy over my head at the plane circling above," Wallace recalls, his face filling with excitement.

The plane then came a bit lower whereby it dropped wrapped candies from the cockpit to a gathering of children. But for reasons unknown the plane was not able to avoid a large tree that upon impact damaged its underside. The pilot immediately turned the plane back towards the base, but, with its fuel lines likely disabled, it came up short and crashed into the bush. The other aircraft returned to Takara.

The uncle of Wallace's mother saw the downed aircraft from his garden. Frightened, the uncle hid behind a tree as the plane caught fire and spewed smoke. A medical team arrived and pulled the two airmen out of the wreck. "They were crying in pain," Wallace claims his relative told him later.

After returning to Takara, they were taken to the local military hospital. Soon after, both were transferred to the much larger Bellevue Hospital in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. One died during the journey the second passed on following arrival.

Today the rear section of the plane's fuselage, heavily dented and stripped of movable parts, rests in dense shrubs at the entrance to the Air Club Vila, a training and charter center located outside the international terminal of Port Vila's Bauerfield Airport.

When the war ended in 1945, the Americans made a hasty exit of the islands. But since supply and equipment stockpiles during the war had not been managed properly, ballooning to staggering levels - 9 million tons, many estimates say - a large amount was dumped under an initiative known as Operation Roll-Up.

Between 1945 and 1947 entire planes, trucks, and bulldozers found graves underground or beneath the sea. "It was so fast," Wallace says. "Some things they buried. But others they pushed off barges into the harbor of Port Vila."

French and British colonists began establishing cotton plantations on the islands in the mid-nineteenth century. The British-French Condominium subsequently governed the islands from 1906 until independence in 1980. Though many records say that the American dumping was necessitated by the Surplus Property Act, which requires that excess reserves be jettisoned, others argue that the refusal on the part of the colonists to purchase the goods played a role as well. In the end, however, some planters made out quite well.

"For a bottle of rum, for a bottle of gin, a planter could get a jeep," explains Allan Palmer, who has lived in Vanuatu his entire life, of the trading that took place between the locals and the soldiers. "A guy in a workshop here in Port Vila bought one from a planter and sold it to me in the early '70s. I wanted to drive it on the beach, right along the sea, mainly at night because I didn't have a driver's license. The guy who eventually bought it from me forgot to add oil and wrecked the differential."

For Wallace, his family still has a rifle given to his father by a G.I. Another American offered a truck. "I can't have the truck," Wallace recalls his father saying, "because I can't drive the truck."

Much more severe was the clearing that took place on the island of Santo, where U.S. installations included four airstrips, dozens of Quonset huts, and many buildings whose foundations still remain today. Rusted and corroded engine blocks, broken axles, and other bits of unidentifiable iron and steel litter the coast near "Million Dollar Point," a dumping spot in the harbor of Santo's largest city of Luganville. Further out to sea from these shores, discarded weapons, food cans, jeeps, trucks, airplanes, and bulldozers fill the bottom amid a setting of tropical fish and colorful coral that today is a popular diving location. In downtown Luganville, an aircraft engine greets customers at the front of the Kakaruk Hut restaurant.

In spite of the problems and gloomy circumstances that accompanied their existence, Wallace was sorry to the see the Americans go. "Overall, we had a good relationship," he says.


Air Vanuatu was established in early 1981 after Vanuatu gained independence from the United Kingdom and France the previous year. The assistance of Ansett Airlines was sought and a five-year agreement put in place for Ansett to provide aircraft and operating staff. [3] Ansett also took a 40% stake in the new airline, the government of Vanuatu holding the other 60%. [4] The first Air Vanuatu flight, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 owned and operated by Ansett, departed Sydney for Port Vila on 5 September 1981. [3] In May 1982 a Boeing 737-200 of Polynesian Airlines replaced the DC-9 this was replaced in turn by an Ansett 737-200 in October 1985. [5] In March 1986 the agreement with Ansett expired and was not renewed, this had the effect of grounding the airline. [3]

In 1987 the company was re-established with 100% ownership by the government of Vanuatu, [6] after a new commercial agreement was signed with Australian Airlines weekly Sydney – Port Vila flights re-commenced on 19 December using a Boeing 727-200 chartered from Australian. [3] Air Vanuatu subsequently bought the aircraft in 1989 and leased it back to Australian for use on that airline's network on days that it was not used by Air Vanuatu. [7] In November 1992 the 727 was replaced by a Boeing 737-400 leased from Australian Airlines. [7] The following year an Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante was also leased from Australian, entering service that April to operate flights between Port Vila and Nouméa. [7] The leases on both aircraft continued after Australian was taken over by Qantas in October 1993, with the commercial agreement being rolled-over to Qantas as well. [7] Qantas is deeply involved in the airline's operations to this day Air Vanuatu uses Qantas Frequent Flyer program, Qantas codeshares on Air Vanuatu's flights from Australia, and provides maintenance and pilot training services as well.

Air Vanuatu terminated the lease on the Qantas Boeing 737-400 after it took delivery of its own Boeing 737-300 in April 1997. [8] The same month Bandeirante services ceased when a Saab 2000 entered service. [8] The lease on the Saab 2000 was terminated in March 1999 and in June that year Air Vanuatu commenced using a de Havilland Canada Dash 8 of Vanuatu's government-owned domestic carrier Vanair on weekly services to Nouméa. [9] In April 2001 Air Vanuatu merged with Vanair, however the merger was reversed only five months later. [10] [11] In November 2003 an ATR 42 entered service for use on domestic routes in competition with Vanair. [12] In September 2004, Air Vanuatu again merged with Vanair. [2]

In January 2008 Air Vanuatu replaced its Boeing 737-300 with a new Boeing 737-800. [13] Three Harbin Y-12s were added to the fleet in early 2009 and in October the same year the airline took delivery of a new ATR 72–500 aircraft to replace its ATR 42. [14] Four days after the ATR 72 arrived at Port Vila the Board of Air Vanuatu was sacked and replaced by Directors General of various Vanuatu government ministries. [15] The ATR 72 made its first revenue flight for Air Vanuatu on 8 November 2009. [16] A second ATR 72–500 was delivered to the airline in November 2014. [17] In 2016 the Harbin Y-12s were phased out and replaced by de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters. [18]

In July 2020, Air Vanuatu announced a major set of changes for the airline due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the reshuffling of Orders and the shrinking and localization of the management team. During this, the CEO Derek Nice has stepped down, being temporarily replaced by Joseph Laloyer. Until a replacement can be found. This includes delaying the delivery of the 4 A220 Family aircraft they had on order. And a strategic review of their network. [19]

Domestic Edit

As of November 2009 Air Vanuatu operates 28 domestic routes throughout the country. [20]

A son continuing his father's mission?

The duke's death has now inevitably opened up the tricky question of who will take his place in the tribes' spiritual pantheon.

Discussions are already under way, and it may take some time before they decide on his successor.

But for observers familiar with Vanuatu, where tribal custom usually dictates that the title of chief is inherited by male descendants, the answer is obvious. "They might say, he has left it to Charles to continue his mission," says Mr Huffman.

Even if Prince Charles becomes the latest incarnation of their deity, Prince Philip will not be forgotten any time soon. Mr Huffman says the movement are likely to keep its name, and one tribesman has told him they are even considering starting a political party.

But more importantly, "there has always been the idea that Prince Philip would return some day, either in person or in spiritual form", says Mr Huffman, who adds that some may think his death will finally trigger this eventuality.

And so, while the Duke of Edinburgh lies in rest in Windsor Castle, there is the belief that his soul is making its final journey across the waves of the Pacific Ocean to its spiritual home, the island of Tanna - to reside with those who have loved and revered him from afar all these years.

Minister of Education and Training

Halo Olgeta!

Welcome to the website of the Vanuatu Ministry of Education and Training (MoET)!
I am very happy that you have found this site, and hope that it will be extremely useful to you.

Our goal is to provide content that will be useful and attractive to all our major stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, school administrators, education officials, and the public. We have designed the site so that your stakeholder "role" will lead you to useful content. So if you are a student, look first under the "student/parent" tab, and if you are with the media, look under the "media" tab above. And so on.

In the long term we want our site to have a tremendous amount of content in English, French, Bislama and vernacular island languages, to better serve all our citizens.

Vanuatu women's volleyball team hopes to make history by qualifying for Tokyo Olympics

When Debbie Masauvakalo founded the Vanuatu beach volleyball team in 2007, she had high hopes.

But she never imagined how far the women would go.

"Our aim was just to become the best at beach volleyball in the Pacific," the Australian former volunteer said.

"So we never started with the ambition of qualifying for the Olympic Games.”

But in 2009, Australian Olympic gold medal winner Natalie Cook saw the team play during a visit to Vanuatu and she told Masauvakalo they were world-class.

Nevertheless, achieving success on the world stage would be a challenge.

Vanuatu has sent a total of 31 individual athletes to the Olympics since its first appearance in 1988, but no team from the Pacific nation has ever qualified.

For female players, the situation can be even more difficult — women are not always encouraged to participate in sport, or even lead an independent life outside the home.

Not a single female athlete from Vanuatu competed in the 2016 Summer Games, for the first time in the country's Olympic history.

The beach volleyball team came close though, and only missed out on competing in Rio de Janeiro by a single place.

"That was pretty disheartening," Masauvakalo said.

"Not to be able to get across the line, it was pretty heartbreaking."

Five years later, amid a very unusual lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics, the players are determined to represent Vanuatu this time by winning a crucial qualifier in Thailand.

For some of the women, it's their final opportunity for Olympics glory.

For Miller Pata, it's do-or-die time.

She's been a key partner in each of the team's three Olympic bids, but at 34, this is likely to be her last chance to make sporting history.

She hails from the Banks Islands, one of the most remote places in the world.

With her father's encouragement, she pursued the sport as a young girl, soon becoming what some commentators call the "Queen of the Court".

Her father died last year, and today she is driven by this memory of her "biggest fan".

"I really miss him so much," she said.

Volleyball has allowed Pata to travel to over 30 countries, where she has knocked out top-ranked teams from Brazil, China and Australia.

The results have been startling for some, like teammate Lawac Majabelle, who played her first beach volleyball game just over a year ago.

Now she's on the national team.

"It was a surprise for me. I never dreamed that I would be playing beach volleyball," she said.

"But no regrets. My dream is to be a role model for the young girls in Vanuatu."

The team have worked hard to try to earn their spot in Tokyo, training every day rain or shine.

Vanuatu graduates from list of least developed countries

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has graduated from the official list of Least Developed Countries (LDC), becoming the sixth country to achieve the milestone since the development categorization was created in 1971.

The graduation is “testimony to years of effort resulting in hard-won sustainable development gains,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message.

Vanuatu is the latest country to graduate out of the category of Least Developed Countries.

We join the @UN family and all development partners in extending our best wishes to the people and Government of Vanuatu.

&mdash UN-OHRLLS (@UNOHRLLS) December 3, 2020

Vanuatu graduated despite severe setbacks due to accelerating climate change, natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit remittances flowing back home hard, and the trade and tourism sector.

The country has prepared a transition strategy, which will help navigate the next steps in its development path.

The journey to graduation

Vanuatu was recommended for graduation from the LDC category by the UN Committee for Development Policy in 2012, having met the graduation thresholds for the Human Assets Index and income in 2006, 2009 and 2012.

The recommendation was approved by the Economic and Social Council in 2012 and by the General Assembly in 2013. The country was granted an extension in 2015, following the severe devastation caused by Cyclone Pam, and the graduation was postponed to 4 December 2020.

Challenges remain

While the move reflects the “significant improvements” in development indicators, Vanuatu remains highly vulnerable to external shocks as well as the fact that it is a small island State, according to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

“As we focus on building back better, ESCAP stands ready and committed to continue to support Vanuatu in its development aspirations and in implementing the smooth transition strategy,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, ESCAP Executive Secretary.

The LDC category

Least developed countries (LDCs) are low-income countries confronting severe structural impediments to sustainable development. They are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks and have low levels of human assets.

Given their special circumstances, LDCs have exclusive access to certain international support measures such as in the areas of development assistance and trade.

Vanuatu beach volleyballers one step away from history

Just one tournament stands between Vanuatu’s women’s beach volleyball team and a historic berth at the Olympic Games this summer at Tokyo 2020.

Since Vanuatu’s first appearance on the Olympic stage at Seoul 1988, they’ve sent a total of 31 athletes to the world’s premiere multi-sport event, but no team has ever qualified. That could all change if the pairings of Miller Pata/Sherysyn Toko and Loti Joe/Majabelle Lawac win the AVC Continental Cup Final set for 25-28 June 2021.

The journey to this moment has been 15 years in the making with Vanuatu Volleyball Federation president Debbie Masauvakalo as the driving force. After arriving as an Australian volunteer to Vanuatu in 2004, she quickly recognised the potential Vanuatu had in beach volleyball and worked to establish a national federation and a programme over the next two years.

“The National team programme commenced in 2006 – seeing the growth of the programme is incredibly rewarding, however for me, the aspect that resonates the loudest is seeing the personal growth of the girls,” Masauvakalo told Tokyo 2020.

“Over generations watching them become more confident [and] as time progressed, each new generation of player has an easier pathway to follow… this is a result of the people and players before them, having carved a way forward.

“And that is exactly what we wanted to achieve, not just [to have] champions and award-winning players, [but] we wanted to build a strong community in Vanuatu. That excites me, and that is how I measure our progress and success.”

It isn’t the first time Vanuatu have come close to qualifying for the Olympics. After narrowly missing out on Rio 2016, for Miller Pata, who was has been a long-standing player within the national team, there’s still a chance to fulfil the Olympic dream.

“If I qualify it’s like my dreams have come true, it’s my dream,” said Pata, who was part of the Rio 2016 qualification campaign. “If we qualify for the first time it will be big things for us.”

Pioneers of the game

Since Pata started playing beach volleyball on Mota Lava (the fourth largest island) in 2006, she has become a leader and role model for the sport in Vanuatu.

For 14 years, she has represented Vanuatu in tournaments around the world, winning medals and awards like the World’s Most Inspirational Player on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in 2015 and Vanuatu’s first-ever team medal (bronze) at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

In fact, the Commonwealth Games saw Pata and teammate Linline Matauatu – who has since retired – make global headlines after being dubbed the “Super Mums”. Pata had given birth to her second child, Tommy, just eight months before the tournament.

“Beach volley is wonderful,” Pata, who is also considered one of the foundations of the national team, said of her decision to continue playing for as long as she has. “It’s my sport, I enjoy it and it’s my job. It keeps me healthy and strong I think those are the most important things.”

Throughout her time as a professional athlete, Pata has been breaking cultural norms by helping change views on women. The 32-year-old stepped out of the traditional role of being a mother and wife – something that can be hard to break in Vanuatu where traditional roles still play a large role – to enter the world of sports.

“As a mother, sometimes me and my husband used to argue a little bit but now he understands why I’m playing and involved in the sport, so now we’re good,” she laughed.

It’s not always easy – she agreed with her husband to keep the house in order with the help of her sister, who stays with children while Pata trains. But in doing this, the mother of two is helping lead the way for more women in Vanuatu to follow their dreams.

Pata has been an inspiration to a number of young beach volleyball athletes including Sherysyn Toko, Pata’s partner since late 2018 in Vanuatu’s number one team. Since the age of 18 Tinny, as she is affectionately known, has been representing Vanuatu after initially switching from indoor volleyball at the suggestion of a friend.

“Miller is a role model in my eyes because I think she inspired us a lot,” Toko, who hails from Ambae Island said. “One thing she does is encourage us a lot and even when we are down, she helps us.

“Now we travel together and know each other well so I was really glad because we all know she’s the best player and I’ve learnt everything from her.

“She’s quiet and I was glad we got to work together. For me, I was glad other girls, when they see us, feel they want to become like us so that’s a good thing that can inspire them and now we see many children are coming over for our programme every Friday.”

The countdown is on

When speaking to Pata and Toko during their break from training in Port Vila, they still had over a month until the Continental Cup final.

“Yes…” laughed Toko when asked if she was excited about the upcoming qualifier. “Our families might be a little afraid because of COVID-19 and are worried about that but we also want to take part in the competition so it’s important for us.

“I think we have to support each other when we go.”

Pata echoed Toko’s words, saying: “For me it’s the same as Tinny. We have to be strong and work together to support each other so we can go to the competition. These are very important things for us to do because that’s our last qualification.”

The countdown clock was reset after defeating New Zealand’s Francesca Kirwan/ Olivia MacDonald and Julia Tilley/Shaunna Polley in a “golden decider” at the Asian Continental Cup’s Oceania Qualifier in March 2020. In a best of three, Pata and Toko won the first match before their Kiwi counterparts forced a “golden match” after defeating Matauatu and Joe. It was then back to Pata and Toko to secure Vanuatu’s path to the Continent Cup final.

With their spot secured for the final stages of Olympic qualification, which was originally scheduled for June 2020, every opportunity Vanuatu had to hit the court until then was important. The team were set to fly to Australia for an FIVB World Tour event with plans to return to Vanuatu for six weeks before looking at tournaments in Europe in May.

But with tournaments already being cancelled across Europe due to the pandemic it was all up in the air.

In fact, just a day after their victory against New Zealand, the event in Australia was postponed before everything came to a halt as all subsequent FIVB and AVC events were cancelled.

In Vanuatu, after a brief state of emergency that saw the players training while in isolation and being restricted to their homes and local communities, the national team members were able to train together throughout the remainder of 2020. And while the road to Tokyo became a little longer, the disruptions didn’t disrupt their plans.

“We’ve been training hard during COVID-19 and we are prepared,” said Pata.

Late last year, after the departure of Michael Bargmann, who had been with the national team for the past 18 months, the Vanuatu Volleyball Federation were able to secure the appointment of former Italian international Federica Tonon with support from FIVB’s coaching support programmes.

After arriving in the South Pacific in early March and undertaking two weeks of quarantine, Tonon got to work right away.

“We are very happy she is here with us,” Toko said of the former team manager of Italy’s U20s. “She helps us a lot and I think it’s better she’s staying with us so she can give us drills and help us to be strong. I think she’s very good.”

“I’m glad Federica is here with us because we didn’t have a full-time coach with us,” Pata explained, talking about the departure of Bargmann. “We are really happy, and we are glad that she is training with us a lot to make us stronger.”

While the World Tour returned to play in June 2020, Pata and Toko have not been able to compete internationally since March last year and currently don’t have plans to participate in events ahead of the Continental Cup Final, which will be held in Nakon Pathom, Thailand.

But it doesn’t mean they haven’t been able to compete.

“So we can play against the boys, which will help us compete against other countries. I think it’s better to have competition against the boys, it’s a challenge,” said Pata.

And of course, they win too.

It’s more than a sport, it’s a community

Every time Vanuatu’s National Women’s Beach Volleyball team take to the court, they represent a population of just under 300,000 and wear their national colours with pride.

However, it’s also what they do away from the international stage that helps to grow and develop the sport back in their home nation.

With the team active in the community, they participate in games with children and after-school sessions, along with the national federation’s strong community programmes including Volleyball4Change, which has received recognition from the International Olympic Committee. This is the reason it isn’t hard to see why beach volleyball has a strong sense of community in Vanuatu.

“The work that has been done by the players leading the way, it has given the next generation the opportunity to excel in life and on the court,” said Masauvakalo. “The pathway for the players is clearer, so they can dream big because they can see what is in front of them.

“I’m confident our teams can keep inspiring the next generation, we already have a strong pikinini (children) afternoon here at our headquarters where over 200 children join us to train and play.”

This past April the team were in Tanna Island, a 45-minute flight from Port Vila. During their visit to a village in an area called Sulphur Bay, children greeted the players along with the chief and pastor, who is very passionate about beach volleyball.

After playing with the children and having an exhibition match, they left the village but not without leaving their volleyballs and the spirit of the sport with the locals.

And with one eye on the future, something bigger than just having the chance to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is brewing for Vanuatu’s beach volleyball team.

The Vanuatu Volleyball Federation’s ambitions to make a difference serves as a message of inspiration that bodes well for the future of the sport.

“Who knows, if we qualify for Tokyo and come home with a medal, we might need more sand beach courts in Vanuatu to keep up with the demand,” said Masauvakalo.

Vanuatu will head to Thailand for the Final of the AVC Beach Volleyball Continental Cup from 25-28 June with the winners qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

'It's all gone': Cyclone Harold cuts a deadly path through Vanuatu

T he once-lush forest cover of the island of Malo has been completely denuded. Nearly every tree lost major limbs. Many were snapped at the trunk. Even cyclone-adapted coconut trees were strewn about like matchsticks. Schools and homes were destroyed.

On Monday, the tiny Pacific island country of Vanuatu was rocked by Cyclone Harold, the second category-5 storm to hit the nation in five years. The cyclone, which formed off Solomon Islands and led to the deaths of 27 people who were swept off a ferry in rough seas, went on to flatten buildings and cause severe flooding in Fiji and Tonga. But it passed through the north of Vanuatu when it was at its strongest.

A small, single-engine plane took off from Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila on Wednesday to survey the impact on the northern islands of the country. With communication lines down, news up until this point about the extent of the damage has been sparse, but as the plane flew over Malo, then Aore, and finally Santo, the largest island in Vanuatu, it was clear that the cyclone had cut a deadly path.

Four inter-island transport ships, at least one of them fully laden, were thrown ashore on the island of Malo.

Santo, the setting for the book that inspired the Rogers and Hammerstein classic musical South Pacific, was no longer recognisable. Once lush and verdant, it is now barren landscape, sun-burnt and severe.

The majority of Santo’s 40,000 inhabitants inhabit the southern coastal stretch of the 100km-long island, which was impacted directly by the storm.

For Lord Mayor Patty Peter, the experience was overwhelming. In an emotional phone call to media in Port Vila Tuesday he said, “We urgently need water, food and shelter at the moment. Many have lost their homes. Schools are destroyed. Electricity is down. I’m urgently calling for help. This is one of the worst experiences of my life.”

He later confirmed that food and water were being distributed, but “just for today and tomorrow. That’s all that we can do.”

The town has shrugged off smaller cyclones countless times in the past. “But this one, like, it’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for all the people in the northern islands,” said Peter.

A Luganville man standing in the ruins of his home explains how the nearby Sarakata river overflowed its banks during cyclone Harold and wiped away several houses.

The damage wrought by Cyclone Harold is sickeningly reminiscent of the impact of Cyclone Pam in 2015, which directly impacted half the national population and damaged 90% of buildings in the capital, Port Vila. Vanuatu’s economy is only just recovering. With borders still closed under a state of emergency due to Covid-19, the nation faces immense challenges in rebuilding.

Residents in Luganville’s riverside communities were among the worst hit. The Sarakata river rose six to eight metres, flattening homes and damaging many others.

One 60 year-old man said: “I’ve lived here 13 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it . It’s the first time in history we’ve seen it come this high.”

There are scenes of community spirit and resilience – children gleefully clambering through the wreckage, a grandmother with three small children busily limbing a fallen tree blocking the road outside their home – but there are immense challenges ahead.

Santo’s central power station was flooded, and kilometres of lines are down, including high tension lines to other southern communities. The municipal water service’s pumps operate on electricity, so Luganville has done without running water since the storm.

People will retrieve all the food they can from their ravaged gardens, but with no way to preserve it, and no prospect of a new crop in the next three months, they face an uncertain future.

Once a lush and beautiful meeting place for Luganville residents, Unity Park has been ravaged by category-5
Cyclone Harold.

Christina Boelulvanua is a school teacher –or was – until the Covid-19 crisis sent her home. Forced into exile in 2017 by a volcanic eruption on the nearby island of Ambae, she and her family were trying to build a new life in Luganville.

“I ran away from the volcano with my kids, thinking 2020 would be a safe place for my kids. And then comes Cyclone Harold.”

She is unsure how she will be able to feed her family, given her garden has been destroyed.

“Right now, we’re going to feed from what’s available, but after that it means we have to buy from the shop,” said Boelulvanua.

“Most people live on what’s planted in the garden. Some people who have paid jobs, they can still survive. But others who depend on food crops—I can’t see how they will survive. In rural areas, we depend on food crops, cash crops, we sell to earn money. And now it’s all gone.”

'One people, one nation' for 40 years

"There's a lot of factors that separated us and we had to try and work our way towards a common purpose, towards unity of people, to fight together to become one people and one nation, as we have been since the last 40 years," Mr Regenvanu said.

An early member of Vanuatu's oldest political party, the New Hebrides National party — later known as the Vanuaɺku Pati, which was formed on a platform of independence — Mr Regenvanu was always "confident" Vanuatu would gain its independence.

"We have always been independent people before white people came to Vanuatu. We were people who were living in our islands independently, depending on subsistence agriculture, and our way of life, culture and customs," he said.

"We came from this background, and we were confident that with this background and with the dispute of Independence, that we would get it."

Ralph Regenvanu, Pastor Regenvanu's son, is the current leader of the Opposition in Vanuatu and said his parents' fight for independence has been a huge influence during his political career.

"The Constitution, which my father helped draft, has been very useful in putting Vanuatu in a good direction — the challenge is how do we balance them in a modern nation state especially with modern challenges like climate change and now the COVID-19 pandemic," Mr Regenvanu said.

Mr Regenvanu said while some Ni-Vanuatus cannot come home for celebrations due to COVID-19, the country "values" them.

"I just encourage them to stay safe and try to enjoy the day as best they can wherever they are, in the company of other people from Vanuatu," he said.

"Know the country is here and we are looking forward to whenever they can come back, and we definitely value their contributions."

Watch the video: Vanuatu COUNTRIES


  1. Mazuzahn

    Female beauty, this is something without which the world will not be interesting! Photos class !!!!!

  2. Volar

    In my opinion, this is a delusion.

  3. Tarrin

    the good result will turn out

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