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ITU Deploys Emergency Communication Equipment in Vanuatu


In an effort to coordinate relief efforts in Vanuatu in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Pam, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has deployed emergency telecommunication equipment to the Pacific Ocean island nation. The category 5 storm devastated parts of Vanuatu on March 13. The ITU has dispatched 40 satellite phones, 10 broadband global area network terminals, and 35 solar panels.

“The frequency and intensity of disasters is increasing worldwide with a disproportionate impact on developing countries,” said ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao. “ITU is encouraging governments, especially those in developing countries, to invest in telecommunication infrastructure that is resilient to disasters.”

Brahima Sanou, the director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, said the tropical storm had “paralyzed telecommunications and affected rescue and rehabilitation efforts.” He said the ITU was committed to assisting member states restore telecommunication links in the aftermath of natural disasters “to facilitate humanitarian response to support the affected populations.”

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Joe Natuman thanked the ITU for the support. He said that all 83 islands in the Vanuatu archipelago suffered substantial devastation as a result of Tropical Cyclone Pam. “As communications are down, the ITU emergency equipment, which we have received and distributed throughout the country, will help us coordinate the relief efforts as well as report the situation in outer islands,” he said. Vanuatu’s population of 267,000 is spread over 65 islands. Some 47,000 people live in the capital, Port Vila  on Éfaté Island.

Winds from the cyclone were estimated to have reached 155 MPH with gusts peaking at nearly 200 MPH. The storm destroyed homes, damaged infrastructure, knocked out electrical power, and left a tangle of debris in its wake. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has estimated that 90 percent of structures on Éfaté were damaged or destroyed. More than 2000 people have taken shelter in evacuation centers.

The handful of Vanuatu’s radio amateurs includes Rod Newell, YJ8RN, a native of Australia. He reported this week that while his home survived the storm with only minor damage, he still had no electrical power. He’s been getting by with a bank of solar panels and a small gasoline generator and estimated it could be several more days before electrical power is restored.

Humanitarian efforts are well under way, with planes and helicopters and relief ships arriving, but Newell said it will be a long time before housing, schools, and water supplies are back to normal on Tanna, the worst-hit island. One radio amateur has put his Twin Otter aircraft to use as part of the relief efforts. Newell has set up HF radios for the local airline, the Red Cross, and the police on Tanna and on Santo to the north.

The YJ0XG operation by Haru Uchida, JA1XGI, is still on schedule for April 13-19. The resort he booked suffered only minimal damage from the cyclone, although ac power is still being worked out. The ZL3X group that operated from Vanuatu last October as YJ0X has donated $1000 to the Red Cross appeal. — Thanks to the ITU, The Daily DX




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