8 Confirmed Deaths, More Likely As Cyclone Pam Hits Vanuatu

8 Confirmed Deaths, More Likely As Cyclone Pam Hits Vanuatu
The island nation of Vanuatu suffered a direct hit from Cyclone Pam Saturday. The U.N. and other regional agencies are dispatching aid teams.

At least eight people are dead after Cyclone Pam made landfall on the Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu Saturday.

The storm lashed Vanuatu with heavy rainfall and winds of up to 170 miles per hour. Aid agency officials have confirmed eight deaths from the storm so far, with that number expected to increase as communities assess the damage. (Video via ODN)

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published unconfirmed reports of as many as 44 deaths in one outlying province.

“What we do know is that this tropical cyclone was expected to skirt Vanuatu. At the last minute it seems to have changed course and hit populated areas,” said the BBC’s Phil Mercer.

“This is basically a worst-case scenario because the eye of this cyclone has basically just split the island chain right down the middle. A lot of the more populated islands have been hit head on with a direct hit,” said CNN’s Jennifer Gray.

One UNICEF official said in terms of damage to infrastructure, Pam could end up being “one of the worst [weather disasters] in Pacific history."

The U.N. has prepared emergency response teams;

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, said her country’s government is preparing aid, and New Zealand has earmarked more than $700,000 in aid funding for the islands. (Video via The Telegraph)

The Solomon Islands and New Zealand are under a tropical cyclone warning as Pam moves south. Forecasters say the storm reached maximum intensity on Friday and is expected to weaken.

This video includes images from NASA.