Jul 16, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Tropical Cyclone Pam Devastates Vanuatu in the South Pacific

Mar 14, 2015 04:55 PM EDT

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In the midst of unimaginable destruction, meteorologists say that a cyclone, designated "Cyclone Pam", will continue to devastate islands in the South Pacific even after the storm brought torrential rains and fierce winds hour after hour since the start of the weekend.

While those of us on the continental side of the Pacific may experience larger waves and great winds coming from the West, islanders in the South Pacific are bracing themselves for what is turning out to be on of the strongest storms that region of the world has seen in years. In fact, though meteorologists have admittedly underestimated the power and magnitude of Cyclone Pam, they believe that it may reach an even greater scale of devastation than Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in 2013 creating nearly $14.5 billion in estimated damages.

"#CyclonePam still tearing through #Vanuatu. 'Much bigger than expected', says our colleagues in Port Vila. Initial reports of devastation" spokespersons with the Australian branch of UNICEF.

The Australian Red Cross has reported that the capital of Vanuatu has experienced "unbelievable destruction" and has asked that relief efforts be prepared for as soon as the storm lifts. "The humanitarian needs will be enormous. Many people have lost their homes. Shelter, food and water are urgent priorities in Port Vila."

While meteorologists have indicated that the storm has weakened some, Cyclone Pam shows little to no signs of abating. And the Category 5 storm is leaving a path of destruction in its wake-literally. The storm is forecasted to move southeastward of Vanuatu, and is not expected to make any additional landfalls before it dissipates, but the Vanuatu island chain is still being hit quite hard by the cyclone. 

"Seven hours hunkered down and it's still not safe to go outside" emergency communications director for humanitarian organization World Vision, Chloe Morrison says. "The winds are still really howling. We're really lucky to be in a concrete house."

But not everyone is quite as fortunate. While many homes are being destroyed, the humanitarian organization help relocate food, water, resources and families to churches nearby that can allow them to hopefully ride out the storm with little to no casualties.

"The strongest thing they've got is cement churches" program director for CARE International, Inga Mepham says. "Some of them don't have that. It's hard to find a structure that you'd think would be able to withstand a Category 5 storm."

But good news came this Saturday Mar. 14, as the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii announced that the cyclone has weakened from a Category 5 hurricane to the equivalent of a Category 4.

What does that mean for how the storm will progress?

Well, thus far the storm has soaked the capital with more than 9 inches of rain in the past 36 hours, with gusts of wind as fast as 190 miles-per-hour. But once the hurricane moves southeast researchers expect that the higher wind shear and cooler waters it will encounter will significantly weaken the storm.

Want to keep track of the storm?

Track Cyclone Pam here, and keep up to date with our Facebook page for more updates.

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