IT WAS every holidaymakers' worst nightmare.

Rick and Cheryl Felsch lay in the darkness in their Vanuatu hotel room, the windows boarded up, while Cyclone Pam hammered buildings and trees outside.

"Daylight couldn't come fast enough," said Mrs Felsch, who manages Dolphins Motel in Byron Bay with her husband.

The couple had gone on holidays to Nasama Resort in Efete on Wednesday, confident that the cyclone was tracking towards Fiji.

It wasn't and, when the power went out at 11am on Friday, they knew their lives were in danger.

"The last plane had left at 5pm on Thursday so we couldn't get out.

"We were on the second floor of our hotel and they came and boarded up all the glass doors.

FUNDRAISING: Rick and Cheryl Felsch, managers of Dolphins Motor Inn, Byron Bay, had a terrifying experience in Vanuatu when Cyclone Pam struck (inset). They are now raising funds to help a local family.
FUNDRAISING: Rick and Cheryl Felsch, managers of Dolphins Motor Inn, Byron Bay, had a terrifying experience in Vanuatu when Cyclone Pam struck (inset). They are now raising funds to help a local family. Mireille Merlet-Shaw AFP

"There was very little air and the heat was unbelievable."

The wind started to pick up just after 4pm, then the cyclone moved in.

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"The building started to shake," said Mr Felsch. "The noise was like a jet engine in the room."

On Saturday morning, "the devastation just hit us", they said.

"It was like someone came in with a brushcutter and took everything out," said Mr Felsch.

Now Mrs Felsch became very ill, with cramps in every part of her body, and the paramedics were called.

"A woman who had taken refuge in the hotel, Catherine, came and helped me. She gave me the clothes off her back because she said you need to be cooler.

"Her husband, Jacob, also walked four kilometres into town for credit for the phone so we could ring our children."

They later found out that Catherine and Jacob Japhet's house had been destroyed in the cyclone and have now started an appeal to help them rebuild.

>> To join Rick and Cheryl Felsch's fundraising effort, phone them on 02 6680 9577 or 0414 276 123 or stop by the Dolphins Motel, 32 Bangalow Rd, Byron Bay.

They also want to buy a pram for a young security guard who was kind to them in the crisis.

First to donate $50 to the fund has been former motel manager Stephen Reynolds.

"We would like to raise at least $5000," said Mrs Felsch, who was airlifted out of Vanuatu with her husband on Monday.

Motel owner Pam Scarborough will take the money and pram to the islands in June.


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