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Cyclone Pam: Government in the dark over four Kiwis unaccounted for in Vanuatu

NZ well prepared, Civil Defence Minister says. UPDATE:

Mon, 16 Mar 2015

The number of Kiwis unaccounted for in Vanuatu has dropped from six to four.

Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) NZ says it has now located 19 of 23 staff following Cyclone Pam.

"We have now confirmed the safety of 19 of our 23 staff and volunteers in Vanuatu, and are keeping their NZ families posted," VSA say.

The four staff still unaccounted for are all located on an island where communications are still down.

Overnight, the NZ government upped its initial relief donation from $1 million to $2.5 million, and said another two planes would be sent to affected Pacific Islands.

On Sunday, the government is in the dark over six New Zealanders who could be missing in Vanuatu following Cyclone Pam.

It is difficult to assess the situation with communications infrastructure down, Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye said on TVNZ's Q+A on Sunday morning.

Asked what's being done to try and reach the six missing Kiwis, Ms Kaye replied, "I know the MFAT staff are working around the clock, firstly to ensure those people that have contacted MFAT or other families are absolutely in the loop. But secondly that communications infrastructure is up and running.

"We’ve got a Hercules going over later today to look at those further assessments. But the best thing that New Zealanders can do is one; look on www.safetravel.govt.nz two; send short text messages, because those are likely to get through to loved ones."

It is understood there is a total of 160 New Zealanders in Vanuatu. Asked if they expected to make their own way out, whether the government would evacuate them, the Civil Defence Minister said, "There’s a lot of meetings that are happening over today, because the point that [Foreign] Minister Murray McCully made to me this [Sunday] morning is we will know more once some of those assessments happen. We know that some of those assessments are quite difficult getting into the outer islands.

"And I think until we’ve got that picture in the next six to eight hours, then we will know more and we’ll be able to work through those plans."

The government has given initial aid of $1 million to Vanuatu and other nations hit by the clone.

NZ prepared
“At the moment we're predicting very severe weather. And we've been through this before,” Ms Kaye said regarding preparations for Cyclone Pam’s arrival here.

“I'll be talking to the civil defence controllers and listening more to their individual plans for particular areas. But I’m very confident we are prepared for this,” she says.

MORE: Damage expected as NZ braces for tail of Cyclone Pam

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Cyclone Pam: Government in the dark over four Kiwis unaccounted for in Vanuatu
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