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Aid continues to arrive in cyclone-stricken Vanuatu

Relief workers have been working to deliver aid to the cyclone-stricken islands of Vanuatu. Villagers, particularly on the outer islands, have been in desperate need of food and water since Saturday.

On Wednesday, a boat packed with supplies was due to be sent to the island of Tanna, where, according to Australian organization CARE, 70 percent of houses have been damaged.

"Everyone in Tanna and other islands in the south, they really live subsistence lives, so they grow what they need for a short period. ... And the reality is that much of that would have been washed away by this storm," said Tom Perry, spokesman for CARE Australia.

"That's a grave concern because we desperately need to get food to people soon," he added.

'Stand united together'

Baldwin Lonsdale, Vanuatu's president, also returned to his country on Tuesday night from Japan, where had been attending a UN disaster conference when the cyclone struck.

"I trust the people of Vanuatu. I trust my government. I trust the people that they will stand united together as a nation and to rebuild the nation," he said.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Access, the death toll currently stands at 11 - almost half the original figure, since some victims had apparently been counted more than once.

Measles fear

Despite efforts to start repairing radio and telephone communications, many of the archipelago's 80 islands remain cut off.

The fear of a measles outbreak has also prompted aid workers to begin an emergency vaccination program for children right across Vanuatu which already fell victim to one outbreak earlier this month.

Winds reached up to 270 kilometers (168 miles) per hour as cyclone Pam swept through the islands on Saturday. Locals said Cyclone Pam felt worse than Cyclone Uma which struck in 1997, killing 30 people.

ksb/bk (AFP, AP)

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