Life Through Cyclone Pam

Vanuatu - Cyclone PamAfter more than 30 years of involvement in the Church in Vanuatu and they have managed to avoid every passing cyclone, but not this time. Rev Dr Randall Prior and his wife Heather happened to be in Vanuatu on a local church project at the time Cyclone Pam hit. They sent regular updates to Australia to ensure family and friends they were safe. These excerpts give a glimpse of their experience as the cyclone approached and then hit the islands.

Thursday 12/3 5 pm: We are staying at The Melanesian hotel. We are now on yellow alert with gale force winds of up to 220kph possible overnight.

Thursday 12/3 9.45 pm: We are currently experiencing strengthening winds and periods of heavy rain. We have been told that the power supply may be cut overnight tonight as a safety precaution.

Friday 13/3 5 pm: There are torrential rains. We are now on ‘Red Alert’. Our building seems safe and secure, and we are not in any personal danger.We still have electricity. We have had our own windows taped to prevent them shattering if broken in the winds. All the decking furniture – tables and chairs – have been moved into the swimming pool!! Each room has been equipped with tea lights and matches!!

Friday 13/3 8 pm: We remain secure and with electricity. We have just had a call to our room to say that the restaurant is open for us to have some food, so we’ll go and do that. [The force of the cyclone with its winds of over 300km/hr hit soon after this, cutting all forms of communication for twenty-four hours.]

Saturday 14/3 8 pm: It is impossible to relate the extent of damage here. Fortunately, our hotel building is a very solid one. As the cyclone built up in the evening, the noise of the wind and the rain became more and more intense, and not even a pile of towels at the door was sufficient to keep the water at bay. So for reasons of safety and peace of mind (relatively speaking) we relocated to the ground floor lobby to join other guests who had taken refuge there. To be in the company of others equally vulnerable is a great comfort to us.

Randall and Heather spent time following the cyclone surveying the damage and making contact with people. It was an emotional experience for them both as they met local people heartbroken by what they had lost in the storm. Reflecting on the experience, Randall has written the following piece for Crosslight, offering a theological perspective on what he witnessed.

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