At least eight people were confirmed dead in Vanuatu after a massive cyclone tore through the tiny South Pacific archipelago, and the death toll is likely to rise much higher once communications are restored with outlying islands, aid workers say. Packing winds of 168 miles per hour, Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu early today, leaving a trail of destruction and unconfirmed reports of dozens of deaths. Chloe Morrison, a World Vision emergency communications officer in Port Vila, says officials from Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office confirmed to her agency that at least eight people in and around the capital, Port Vila, had died during the cyclone.
Officials have yet to assess the damage in many of the hard-hit outer islands because communications remain down, she says. Morrison says she heard reports of entire villages being destroyed in more remote areas. A westward change of course put populated areas directly in the path of Pam. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says there are unconfirmed reports of an additional 44 deaths in Vanuatu's northeastern islands after Pam moved off its expected track. Morrison says residents were awakening to much calmer weather Sunday after many hunkered down in emergency shelters for a second straight night. She says power remains out and communications patchy. (Read more Vanuatu stories.)