Lenakel, Vanuatu (CNN)Jacobeth            Nilah wails in pain in the story battered hospital.

Story highlights

  • A 9-year-old girl with head injuries urgently needs airlifting for surgery, doctor says
  • He is the only doctor at the only hospital on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu
  • Tropical Cyclone Pam has caused widespread damage across the island nation

Lenakel, Vanuatu (CNN)Jacobeth Nilah wails in pain in the storm-battered hospital.

The 9-year-old girl suffered a head injury when the roof of her family home fell on top of her as Tropical Cyclone Pam raged over the South Pacific island where she lives.

The storm, one of the most powerful ever to make landfall, killed her mother and brother.

Now, Jacobeth’s life hangs in the balance, says Dr. Lawrence Boe.

If she’s not airlifted soon, she could die in the stricken hospital whose equipment was damaged in the cyclone, the doctor told CNN on Tuesday. She needs surgery and a bed in an intensive care unit.

Dr. Boe is the only doctor at the hospital, which is the only hospital on Tanna, one of more than 80 islands that make up the nation of Vanuatu.

    Communications down

    Cyclone Pam raked across the archipelago with 155 mph (250 kph) winds over the weekend, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 11 people.

    The storm also cut off communications between the capital, Port Vila, and many of the outer islands like Tanna.

    That left Dr. Boe unable to reach anyone in the capital to ask for supplies or a medevac for Jacobeth, who lies in a room with dozens of other patients who were injured in the storm.


    Dr. Boe used a CNN satellite phone on Tuesday to raise the alarm. He said he thinks authorities are going to send some help.

    He listed to CNN some of the basic but vital resources the hospital is lacking: “Water and food for the patients and some medical supplies to deal with the injuries. IV fluids and rehydration fluids for dehydration.”

    “Water would be number one on the list,” he said.

    Tanna is an hour-long flight from the capital. And the town of Lenakel, where the hospital is situated, is another 45 minutes of rugged driving from the airstrip.

    ‘A monster’

    Aid groups have expressed serious fears about the potential scale of the devastation left by the cyclone on the more remote islands of Vanuatu, where many people live in rickety homes made of thatch or metal sheets.

    The death toll currently stands at 11, according to Vanuatu authorities, five of them from Tanna. But officials say it will take days or even weeks to get a full picture of the destruction.

    The country’s roughly 260,000 citizens are spread across about 65 inhabited islands.

    Vanuatu’s President Baldwin Lonsdale has called Cyclone Pam “a monster,” saying it has set back the development of his country, already one of the poorest in the region, by years.

    One aid organization has said it could be one of the worst disasters ever to hit the Pacific.

    Baby in ruined ward

    The storm flooded many of the wards of the hospital on Tanna, which lies near the southern end of the archipelago. Half of the hospital is unusable. 

    As the cyclone pummeled the hospital and its surroundings, the patients cowered in two rooms. 

    Uprooted trees now litter the building’s surroundings. Its flagpole was snapped in half.

    Volunteer nurses have come to help the dozens of patients.

    One baby was born Monday and now lies on a bed in the ruined maternity ward.

    Her parents, Alina and Ron Loman, haven’t chosen a name yet.

    They’re just happy their child is healthy amid so much destruction.


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