Vanuatu Daily News Digest | 24 March 2015

Ten days after Cyclone Pam the Vanuatu Daily News Digest has electricity again. An extensive and time consuming re-establishmen of the capital’s electricity network has involved the private electrical companies together with the principal supplier, Unelco. Switched-On Electrical Services has just reconnected for Digest readers (and, of course, its editor) and we are all grateful. The mobile is still being charged up.

The two communications companies in Vanuatu, TVL and Digicel, claim to have restored telecoms to 80% of the area of Vanuatu. That is how the information was given out by Fred Samuel as Chief Information Officer of the government after discussing the question with the heads of TVL and Digicel. He further explained that this represents Efate and regions to the north. People living in these areas now have "some coverage", Samuel said. In the rest of the country – the worst affected areas – there have even been towers which have crashed. Satellite phones are being provided to the islands of Tafea, all of which have suffered huge damage. The relief task force members are installing the satellite phones as required in these areas. " So there can be communications back to the National Disaster Management Office," the CIO explained.

Discussions seem to be proceeding – and so far this is only hearsay – with operators of services such as our two telecoms companies provide, for the technical expansion of broadcasting services. The national radio (VBTC) failed to ensure the broadcast of appropriate warnings throughout the lead-in to Cyclone Pam. The telecoms companies likewise failed to deliver anything like intelligent forecasts or prognostications on their message services. This newsblog will continue to oppose telecoms being the main supplier of disaster education and warning services. These properly remain the responsibility of the national broadcasting service. VBTC must be made aware of its huge responsibility and failures in this field.

The official death toll from Pam has risen to 13 after the National Disaster Management Office, with the return of telecommunications, learned of two deaths in Mataso, likely the worst hit Shepherds island.

Food relief is being provided on a basis of 5 kg of rice for 15 days for each individual and ships to deliver relief have already reached the Shepherds. Prime Minister Joe Natuman was aboard a helicopter visit to assess damage in these nearby islands. Natuman, as already reported, has been encouraging land owners (everybody) to return home and become engaged in greater productivity in what people know best – farming.

Au Bon Marché is not selling round cabbage for VT 2,000 a kilo as has been other media and picked up here.

This blog will not get involved at this stage in further reporting of which country or which NGO is giving how much money in what currency to assist the relief effort. Suffice to say others are very sorry for the plight of so many ni-Vanuatu at this time and are demonstrating a generosity which is indeed appreciated.