Family’s ties to Vanuatu run deep

Oak Bay man very familiar with tiny island devastated by Cyclone Pam

Cyclone Pam devastated many an island in its path as it tore through Vanuatu last weekend. Among them the tiny Erromango, with a deep Oak Bay connection.

“My great, great grandfather John Williams was a missionary killed on Erromango in 1839,” said David Williams.

Family members attended a reconciliation ceremony in 2009. As part of that they were gifted with the daughter of a chief, a decedent of a chief who had the missionary killed.

“People are extremely poor but extremely generous,” Williams said.

They worry for the daughter, Mary, and the rest of the residents they’ve come to call friends.

“We’re very concerned, of course, about our many friends there,” said Williams. “These people are in real need right now. It’s quite desperate, in fact, they’re running out of food and water.”

They’re working to raise funds through an Australian crowd-sourcing site ( and through other forms of social media.

“The little town called Williams Bay on the Williams River is completely destroyed, people were hiding in caves during the cyclone,” he said. “Crops are destroyed and 90 per cent of the food comes front the land, so unless aid gets there very quickly there will be starvation.”

The island of about 2,000 people is without communication and the simple airstrip can be out of service on a good day.

“It’s about as remote as you can get on this planet,” Williams said.