Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announces $150k relief package after back-to-back tropical cyclones devastate Vanuatu

New Zealand will send much-needed humanitarian supplies to Vanuatu following back-to-back tropical cyclones, which have devastated the Pacific Island Nation. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules will depart from Whenuapai on Sunday morning carrying relief supplies, including water containers, kits for temporary shelters, and family hygiene kits.

Cyclone Judy - a category 4 - and Cyclone Kevin - a category 5 - have devastated the Pacific Island nation. 

On Saturday, Cyclone Kevin was upgraded to a category 5 after winds of an estimated 165km/h, gusting up to 230km/h.

The storms have caused widespread damage and flooding across the country. No casualties have been reported yet. 

A state of emergency has been declared for areas of Vanuatu impacted most by severe Tropical Cyclone Judy which flattened properties before Kevin settled in.

"Cyclones Judy and Kevin damaged homes, livelihoods, infrastructure and caused the loss of communications in some areas. The full extent of the impact of the cyclones is still to be assessed," Mahuta said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta. Photo credit: Getty Images

Mahuta announced a seven-member team of disaster management experts from Fire and Emergency New Zealand's Urban Search and Rescue, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade are being deployed to assist with the response. 

"This initial package of assistance includes a financial contribution of $150,000 to allow the New Zealand High Commission to respond rapidly to requests from the Government of Vanuatu," Mahuta said.

But Mahuta stressed, New Zealand's aid to Vanuatu will not affect our own Cyclone Gabrielle response and recovery, which "remains our top priority".

Mahuta said the Government, alongside France and Australia, are working closely with Vanuatu to support the recovery effort.    

"Our whānau in Vanuatu are very much in our thoughts," Mahuta said.

"We have first-hand experience of the challenges that Vanuatu will face in the coming days and weeks, and are watching the situation closely. We will continue to work closely with our partners and respond to Government of Vanuatu's requests for assistance where we can."

It was revealed on Sunday that around 80 percent of the country's population has been impacted after the two cyclones tore through the Pacific Island nation. 

Initial reports from Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office have indicated approximately 251,319 people, of which 125,500 are children, have been impacted by the dual tropical cyclones, nearly 80 percent of the country's population.

Save the Children Pacific director Kim Koch said the extent of the damage is still unclear but warned it will be immense. 

"What we're seeing on the ground is just sheer devastation. As families have started to pick up the pieces that have been left behind by TC Judy and TC Kevin, we're seeing houses destroyed, some with roofs blown right off, as well as damage to critical infrastructure like roads, schools and hospitals," Koch said.

"People here in Vanuatu barely had time to register the impacts of Cyclone Judy before having to bunker down for a second powerful storm."

Vanuatu, a country of about 300,000 people, has been ranked the nation most prone to natural disasters by the United Nations.