IT’S a tiny archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean that has been ravaged by one of the most intense tropical cyclones to ever hit the region.
And to Newcastle’s Jono Dunn it is home.
On Wednesday, Mr Dunn and his sister, Sally, will board a plane from Sydney bound for Port Vila and the house they grew up in.
But it will not look the way they remember.
Mr Dunn has been told by his father, Mark, that the family home is ‘‘gone’’.
So are most of the others in the street, destroyed by Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam, which ripped through Vanuatu over the weekend leaving 70per cent of the population homeless.
Born in Vanuatu, Mr Dunn lived in Port Vila until moving to Newcastle in 2004. A talented cricketer for Merewether, he has returned home a number of times to represent his country since making his debut as a 16-year-old.
But this homecoming will be sombre.
He feels an obligation to help his countrymen and his father by lending a hand, wherever he can. It’s not much, but for a nation on its knees it will take all the help it can get.
‘‘From what I understand there is not too much we can do, the place is pretty well gone,’’ Mr Dunn said.
‘‘We will just have to clean it up and start again.
‘‘There is this huge expatriate population in Port Vila and everyone is quiet close, it’s like a big country town.
‘‘Most people in our street have lost everything, their houses and their belongings. ‘‘They are still waiting on power and water. ‘‘We’re lucky enough to have some friends who live in a sheltered part on the other side of town and we can stay there for the meantime.’’
Mr Dunn struggled through a sleepless Friday night, checking updates online as the powerful storm ripped through Vanuatu.
His father was bunkered down in Port Vila until the storm ripped the roof of the house about midnight.
The Dunn family moved to Vanuatu in the mid-1980s and were there for Severe Tropical Cyclone Uma in February, 1987.
‘‘Dad said this one was much worse,’’ Mr Dunn said. ‘‘Nothing can compare to this.’’
The cyclone has already been labelled the worst natural disaster in the history Vanuatu. The death count stands at 24 people and President Baldwin Lonsdale has pleaded with the world to help the Pacific nation rebuild its ‘‘completely destroyed’’ infrastructure as aid agencies warn conditions were among the most challenging they have faced.