UN fears 'the worst' after typhoon batters Vanuatu

March 14, 2015 01:52

Widespread casualties are feared after a powerful typhoon battered Vanuatu overnight, triggering flash floods and knocking out telephone lines in the isolated Pacific island nation, aid officials said on Saturday.

At least one person has been confirmed dead in Papua New Guinea, one of several other Pacific island nations also affected by the Category 5 storm, named Pam. The United Nations was preparing to deploy emergency rapid response units to Vanuatu on Sunday.

"We fear the worst," Sune Gudnitz, the regional head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said, speaking from Fiji.

Gudnitz said the storm's power was comparable to Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in 2013. At present, he said, the only information available from Vanuatu has come from isolated reports on social media, describing a terrifying scene as Pam hit the capital, Port Vila, late on Friday.

UNOCHA said there was an unconfirmed report that 44 people had died in Vanuatu's northeastern Penama province.

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