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Aid Effort Underway As Vanuatu Assesses Storm's Damage

In this March 14, 2015, photo provided by World Vision, debris is strewn around a lone tree in Port Vila, Vanuatu, after Cyclone Pam ripped through the tiny South Pacific archipelago.

Vanuatu's president made an emotional appeal today for international relief for his Pacific nation as the scale of the destruction wreaked by Cyclone Pam became slowly apparent. The storm, which struck Vanuatu late Friday, destroyed buildings and crops, killed at least 8 people and injured 20.

"Most of the building [have] been destroyed, and many houses [have] been destroyed; schools, health facilities [have] been destroyed," President Baldwin Lonsdale, his voice at times breaking, told the BBC. "At this stage, I know my people are very hopeless, panicked, but it will take time for them to" recover.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn, who is reporting on the story for our Newscast unit, says an international relief effort is getting underway to help the archipelago nation of about 267,000 people. Anthony says Australian, New Zealand and U.N. rapid-response teams are expected to reach Port Vila, the capital, today, along with Lonsdale, who was at a disaster-management meeting in Japan when Pam struck his country with winds of more than 185 mph.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her country was working with others to "assess the damage and destruction" that has been left in the wake of the storm. She said Australia was providing humanitarian supplies for up to 5,000 people in the form of water, sanitation and shelter.

"We are also deploying a team from Australia of medical experts and urban search-and-rescue personnel," she said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

NPR's Kuhn also says aid agencies are comparing the devastation to Typhoon Haiyan's impact on the Philippines in 2013, adding the toll is expected to rise as responders reach the outlying islands.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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