Between March 12 and 14, 2015, Tropical Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu as an extremely destructive Category 5 cyclone, with estimated wind speeds of 250km/h and wind gusts that peaked at around 320km/h.
At approximately 11 p.m. local time, the center of the cyclone passed east of Efate Island, which is home to the capital city of Port Vila, and then continued southward, passing just west of Erromango Island and Tanna Island.
Severe and widespread damage was worst on the larger islands of Tanna, Erromango, and Efate, while there was less damage on the smaller islands of Aneityum, Aniwa, and Futuna in the southern region.
Eleven fatalities were subsequently confirmed in Tafea and Shefa Provinces. An estimated 65,000 people were displaced from their homes. Approximately 17,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including houses, schools, clinics, and other medical facilities. The tropical cyclone destroyed crops on a large scale and compromised the livelihoods of at least 80% of Vanuatu’s rural population.
Summary of Damage and Loss
The total economic value of the effects caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam was estimated to be approximately VT 48.6 billion (US$449.4 million). Of this, VT 29.3 billion (US$270.9 million) is attributable to damage, and VT 19.3 billion (US$178.5 million) is attributable to loss.
This is equivalent to 64.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in Vanuatu, giving an indication of the scale of impact (see Table 1). Because of data limitations, however, it is likely that these figures underestimate the total impact. Despite highly commendable efforts by the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment team to collect data during the short time frame of this assessment, the team faced difficulties, as in many instances data were either not available or had not yet been processed.
Accordingly, this assessment is not a full assessment of total damage and loss, but is rather based on the best available information at the time of writing. Tropical Cyclone Pam produced different effects across the different economic and social sectors. The sectors that sustained the highest level of damage were the housing sector, which accounts for 32% of the total damage costs, followed by the tourism sector (accounting for 20% of all damage), the education sector (accounting for 13% of all damage), and the transport sector (accounting for 10% of total damage).
In contrast, the largest level of economic loss is expected in the agriculture and tourism sectors, which are estimated at 33% and 26% of the total losses respectively. In addition, the environmental sector suffered significant losses to ecosystem services, although these losses are not accounted within the impacts to GDP. While the destruction of physical assets by the cyclone occurred in March 2015, production losses and associated higher costs of production will linger for some time.
The negative impact of the disaster on overall economic conditions in the country will thus be felt for several years to come. Analysis shows that 69% of the disaster effects fall within private enterprises and individual ownership, while the remaining 31% of effects are within public sector ownership.
The government is expected not only to take care of the issues that fall within its purview, but also to exercise leadership and guidance in relation to the private sector, with special reference to addressing the post-disaster requirements of the poor and those at risk of impoverishment.
Damage was the greatest in Shefa Province, whereas expected losses are the greatest in Tafea Province.
Total damage and losses are estimated at VT 31.9 billion (66% of the total) for Shefa Province, VT 10.3 billion (21%) for Tafea Province, VT 3.0 billion (6%) for Penama Province, and VT 2.9 billion (6%) for Malampa Province (see Figure 1).