Early reports from Port Vila, the nation’s capital and its major cruise port, say houses are destroyed, trees are down, roads are blocked and people are wandering the streets looking for help.
Communications are down across much of the country with the total extent of the devastation unlikely to be known for several days.
Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas left Sydney on March 8 on a 12-night South Pacific cruise to New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu and was due to arrive in Port Vila on Monday.
A company statement said the ship has made a successful tender call at Champagne Bay in northern Vanuatu and will now call at nearby Luganville Sunday.
It said: ‘Our thoughts go to the many families in Vanuatu who have been impacted by this powerful storm.’
P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Dawn left Brisbane Saturday on a seven-night round ‘Pacific Island Hopper’ cruise to New Caledonia and Vanuatu. She is due to arrive in Port Vila on Wednesday but a company spokeswoman said this is now ‘highly unlikely.’
Carnival Australia issued a statement saying the safety and security of passengers, crew and ships is paramount.
‘We are trying to get an accurate picture of the situation on the ground in Vanuatu,’ the statement said. ‘We will not take ships into Vanuatu if it makes the recovery effort more difficult for local authorities. We also have a number of Ni-Vanuatu staff on P&O Cruises’ ships and we are doing everything we can to help them make contact with home and families.’
Carnival Legend leaves Sydney Sunday on an 11-night ‘Pacific Islands’ cruise to Vanuatu and New Caledonia. She was due to call at Port Vila, Mystery Island and Santo in Vanuatu but a statement from Carnival Cruise Line said the captain and his team are currently working on alternative options in the South Pacific.
‘The people of Vanuatu have always welcomed our guests and crew to their beautiful islands with warm smiles and open arms,’ the statement said. ‘Our hearts and minds are with the inhabitants of Vanuatu.’
Carnival Australia is partnering with Save the Children to determine how it can help support the relief efforts.