Vanuatu′s President Reverend Baldwin Lonsdale dies, aged 67 | News | DW | 17.06.2017
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Vanuatu's President Reverend Baldwin Lonsdale dies, aged 67

The president of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, Rev. Baldwin Lonsdale, has died suddenly, local media say. He had held the largely ceremonial post for almost three years.

Lonsdale, an Anglican priest, died in Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila, early on Saturday, the Vanuatu Daily Post newspaper reported on Saturday. He was 67.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Lonsdale died of a heart attack.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed her sadness in a tweet.

'A great leader'

Radio New Zealand quoted former long-time Vanuatu parliamentarian Sela Molisa as saying that the country had "lost one of its greatest leaders."

The president, who took up the mostly ceremonial post on September 22, 2014, received international notice when, at a conference on disaster risk reduction in Japan in March, 2015, he made an emotional appeal for international assistance in the aftermath of devastating Cyclone Pam.  

Among other things, he highlighted climate change, which is having particularly dramatic effects on many small islands in the Pacific, as a major contributing factor in the disaster.

Vanuatu Zerstörung durch Zyklon Pam (CARE)

Cyclone Pam was one of the worst natural disasters in the country's history

He was also praised on the domestic front later in that year for having rescinded pardons granted in his absence to a number of politicians who had been convicted of corruption.

Under the constitution, an electoral college is now required to elect a new head of state within three weeks.

Impoverished nation

The Vanuatu group of islands, first inhabited by Melanesian people, was declared a part of the Spanish East Indies from 1606, before coming under joint French-British administration from 1906. It attained independence as the Republic of Vanuatu in 1980.

The tiny Pacific island nation has a population of 267,000 people. It is made up of a chain of 13 principal and more than 60 smaller islands extending 850 kilometers (528 miles) from north to south, with the archipelago lying about a quarter of the way between Australia's east coast and Hawaii.

Vanuatu is prone to natural disasters, such as cyclones, tsunamis and earthquakes, and is one of the poorest nations in the world.

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