(Bloomberg) — Vanuatu's government declared a nationwide state of emergency after Cyclone Pam tore through the South Pacific archipelago, leaving at least eight people dead and severing communications with more remote islands.

"This was a cyclone that flattened houses and, unfortunately, to find missing people and those who are unaccounted for, it is going to take a huge search and rescue effort," Chloe Morrison, a World Vision emergency communications officer, said by phone from the capital, Port Vila. "Connections have been down here, so we haven't had any reports in from the outlying islands either."

Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale described the storm as "a monster" and said the full impact of the cyclone was not yet known. He said in a statement his country faced "a major calamity."

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