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Extent of damage by Vanuatu storm 'worst' says president

The President of Vanuatu has said he fears the impact from the tropical cyclone could be much worse than imagined. Most houses in the capital Port Vila have been damaged.

Baldwin Lonsdale, President of the South Pacific archipelago Vanuatu, said the damage wrought by tropical storm Pam would be "the very very, very worst" in isolated areas. Officials were meanwhile taking stock of destruction the capital and neighboring areas.

Most houses in Port Vila had been damaged or destroyed by Pam, President Lonsdale told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Sendai, Japan, where he was attending a UN disaster recovery conference.

"People are finding shelter where they can live for the night," Lonsdale added.

At least eight people were confirmed dead but aid workers expected the numbers to rise sharply. 20 people were reported to have been injured in the natural disaster.

Präsident von Vanuatu Baldwin Lonsdale

Baldwin Lonsdale describes the crisis as "the very very very worst"

"The state of

damage is still being assessed

, we do not know exactly the extent of the damage…the number of casualties I do hope will be minor," the president said.

Officials in Vanuatu were meanwhile struggling to find out how much destruction had been brought about by

Cyclone Pam, which tore through the tiny islands early on Saturday

. Aid workers like Chloe Morrison, of World Vision told the Associated Press that she had heard reports of entire villages being destroyed.

The death count is likely to rise once communications are restored after a near-blackout following the storm. "We haven't been able to communicate outside Port Vila," Paolo Malatu, coordinator of the National Disaster Management Office told reporters.

Officials were planning to head to Vanuatu's outer islands on Monday with helicopters, small plans and military aircraft to get a better sense of the destruction, Malutu said.

mg/ng (Reuters, AP)

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