Sendai (Japan) (AFP) - The president of Vanuatu appealed for international assistance on Saturday after his island nation was hit by a terrifying tropical cyclone in what may be one of the region's worst weather disasters.
"I stand to appeal on behalf of the government and people of Vanuatu to the global community to give a lending hand in responding to these very current calamities that have struck us," Baldwin Lonsdale said during a speech at a UN conference in Sendai, Japan.
"Fellow heads of state, governments, and development partners, we have all experienced a form of disaster at one time or another. Today we appeal for your assistance."
Lonsdale spoke as the full extent of the damage is unknown, with limited communications in Vanuatu after Super Cyclone Pam, a maximum category five storm, slammed directly into the island nation late Friday with gusts up to 320 kilometres (200 miles) an hour.
The UN had unconfirmed reports of 44 people killed in one province, and said late Saturday that there was no clear number of deaths or injuries but that the impact of the cyclone had been "catastrophic", in a storm that France said highlighted the dangers of climate change.