The people of the remote island Vanuatu located in the South Pacific are still reeling from Cyclone Pam. The tropical storm hit the island with gusto Friday and continued to rage with Category 5 winds late into the night.
According to the Weather Channel, the western edge of the eye of Cyclone Pam scraped the eastern edge of Efate Island, including the capital of Vanuatu, Port Vila, at about 11 p.m. local time Friday night.
Experts are calling this storm one of the worst natural disasters in the island chain’s history.
Locally, a family from Helper is waiting anxiously to hear from their son who has been serving an LDS mission in Vanuatu for the past 18 months.
The last time Troy and Judy Mastin heard from their son was two weeks ago when he sent an email letting them know the storm was coming, but they’ve received no word from him since Pam hit.
“We have heard from the church that all the missionaries in the area are safe and accounted for, so that eases our minds a tiny bit,” Elder Keven Mastin’s dad Troy said. “We just keep checking the news and are trying to stay positive.”
Right now, Elder Mastin is serving on the main island Efate near Port Vila. Until communication with the more remote islands in the chain has been reestablished, Elder Mastin’s father said he knows his son will be most concerned for the people in those isolated locations.
“He’s served on most of the smaller islands so I know he will be worried about the people he taught out there,” Troy said. “He loves the people out there so much.”
Troy also said despite the fact that poverty is rampant, his son frequently speaks about the generosity of the people in Vanuatu.
The full extent of the damage by Cyclone Pam won’t be known until communication lines are back up and running. Many of the islanders live simply and many rely on growing their own food, but Pam has wiped out the majority of their crops and some 15,000 people on Efate are homeless due to the storm.
“It’s so sad. These people don’t have a lot to begin with and now they’re left with almost nothing,” Troy stated.
Relief efforts for Cyclone Pam are still in the process of being organized, but food and water are among the most urgent requirements. The Weather Channel posted a set of agencies that are already welcoming donations to help those affected by Cyclone Pam:
As for Elder Mastin’s family, their faith has played a big role in keeping them calm in this time of trouble. More information about Elder Keven Mastin will be posted when it becomes available.