The devastation caused by the two cyclones in Vanuatu has raised fears for the safety of the remote tribe that worshipped the Duke of Edinburgh.
The kastom tribes of Tanna on the southern island of Vanuatu revered Prince Philip as one of their own, believing he was born on the island and inhabited by a great spirit. A delegation of Tannese men had even traveled to the UK in 2009 to meet the Duke in a quest to reconnect with him.
Now, after two cyclones in two days caused widespread devastation, there has been no contact with Tanna Island since the weekend. Military rescue teams from Australia, New Zealand, and France are rushing to Vanuatu, which was also hit by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake. However, as the period without contact from Tanna Island lengthens, apprehension grows. The southern islands, including Tanna, remain cut off because communication lines are still down, leaving many without power, clean water, or telecommunications.
Vanuatu’s only female MP, Gloria Julia King, expressed her concern, stating, “To have had two category-four cyclones in less than a week is history in itself. It’s something that even the elders in our families haven’t seen before.” The National Disaster Management Office has estimated that about 80% of the country’s population of about 320,000 has been affected by the cyclones, including 125,500 children.
The situation in Vanuatu highlights the vulnerability of remote communities in the face of natural disasters. It is a reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness and emergency response in such areas. As we watch and wait for news from Tanna Island, we can only hope that the members of the kastom tribes and their families are safe and that they will soon be able to reconnect with the rest of the world.
During times of crisis, it is crucial that the global community comes together to provide aid and support to those who are affected. It is also necessary to take action to address the root causes of these disasters, including climate change, to mitigate future occurrences.