Contact with a remote tribe that worshipped the late Duke of Edinburgh and lives off the cyclone-hit island of Vanuatu has been severed amid rumours it could have been affected by the disaster. Fears are growing for the kastom tribes that live on Tanna Island, a two-and-a-half-hour flight south of mainland Vanuatu, after authorities were unable to contact them today.
Glen Craig, chairman of the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council, told New Zealand’s Stuff news website the southern islands, including Tanna, remained cut off because communication lines are still down.
The cyclones, spiralling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure, like a small tornado, have affected at least 80 percent of the Vanuatu community, according to local authorities.
The country’s National Disaster Management Office said a large majority of the 320,000 population across the multiple Oceanic islands have been hit by the cyclones, including 125,500 children.
They said many residents are without power, clean water or telecommunications.
Mr Craig said there was a significant New Zealand community on the southern island of Tanna, adding that “many Kiwis in Vila are concerned about our friends and family on Tanna”.
New Zealanders in Port Vila, the Vanuatu capital, also reported on Monday they had still not heard from family and friends from Tanna.
Military rescue teams from Australia, New Zealand and France are rushing to Vanuatu, which was also hit by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake.
There is concern that the 25-mile-long island of Tanna suffered the worst damage.
It is home to the kastom tribes who for decades worshipped Prince Phillip, a man they revered as one of their own.
According to local belief, he was a man who was born on Tanna, and a great spirit inhabited his body. Island lore dictated that Philip left Tanna before World War 2 to seek his fortune. He travelled to the UK where he met the woman who would become Queen.
The tribe’s efforts to reconnect with the Queen’s husband were documented on Channel 4’s Meet the Natives in 2009.
A delegation of Tannese men travelled to the UK to conduct what the show’s creator called reverse anthropology, culminating in a private meeting with the duke.
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The cyclones are both believed to have been category four disasters, which is the second highest rating.
It means the winds reached up to 127 miles per hour, or at a minimum exceeding 99 miles per hour.
Category five severe tropical cyclones involved wind speeds of at least 124 mph.
Vanuatu’s only female MP, Gloria Julia King, told Radio New Zealand: “To have had two category-four cyclones in less than a week is history in itself. [It’s] something that even the elders in our families haven’t seen before.”
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