CNN’s Bill Weir traveled to the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu for “The Wonder List” last year. CNN will re-air that episode at 9 p.m. ET Friday to show a glimpse of local life before the devastating storm. Are you there? Share images, if you can safely.
On a quest for what he described as “a Hawaii without hotels, a Bali before burger joints” CNN’s Bill Weir came upon the enchanting South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.
Tanna Island, the southernmost island on a strip that makes up Vanuatu, is considered one of the South Pacific’s most romantic locales.
To many Westerners, Vanuatu is a popular holiday destination. It’s also one of the poorest nations in the region.
Over the weekend, Tropical Cyclone Pam raked across the archipelago with 155 mph (250 kph) winds, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 11 people. The death toll is expected to rise.
Images captured by CNN’s Ivan Watson and Weir offer glimpses of life on Vanuatu before and after Pam.
Striking beams of light filtered through the clouds over the volcanic island of Vanua Lava before the cyclone. It is a portrait of peace and serenity.
The destruction brought by Pam, including this Tanna Island resort once set on crystal blue waters, could set the economy back years.
Before the storm, Yakel villagers on the island carried toddlers as they danced, chanted and marched just as their ancestors had for centuries.
Tanna’s only hospital was badly damaged by one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall. Still, on Monday, a baby girl was delivered in the ruined maternity ward. Her parents, Alina and Ron Loman, haven’t chosen a name yet.
The remote islands are famous for black sand beaches, secluded jungle waterfalls and spectacular volcanoes.
But Tropical Cyclone Pam’s 155 mph winds destroyed many of the rickety structures made of thatch or metal sheets that inhabitants called home. The government estimates 70% of the population was displaced.
For hundreds of years, honeymooners, artists and dreamers have come to South Pacific islands such as Vanuatu in search of romance and breathtaking beauty.
Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale called Cyclone Pam “a monster,” saying it has set back the country’s development by years.
Roughly 260,000 citizens are spread across 65 inhabited islands known for their natural and unspoiled sights.
Dr. Lawrence Boe, the only doctor at the only hospital on Tanna, said basic but vital resources were lacking after the storm, including food, water and medical supplies.
The scale of the devastation on the more remote islands of Vanuatu may not be known for some time, according to aid groups.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez wrote in New York.