Pacific radio news

Vanuatu government urged to do more for Ambae island evacuees

By Mabel Muller - mabel.muller@pmn.co.nz

The compulsory evacuation of more than 11,000 people on Vanuatu's Ambae island is expected to end tomorrow.

Almost all Ambaeans have relocated to other islands due to increased volcanic activity from Manaro vui. Photo/ Vanuatu Red Cross.

Ongoing eruptions and intensified ash fall from the Manaro vui volcano since September last year has forced the government to order the evacuation of Ambaeans to nearby island Maewo.

An Anglican priest from Ambae, who has arrived at Maewo with his family and community, says Maewo does not have enough shelter for all evacuees.

"The population of Ambae is more than the population of Maewo," he says. "We found out there's not enough shelter and a lot of us have to build shelter."

Father Bice says so far people are restless, not knowing what to do.

"They have fear. Not fear of the volcano but they fear the people. They want to do gardening but they fear."

"Compared to Ambae, every day people sustained their own living by gardening or fishing, but being in Maewo they don't know what to do," he says.

It is believed more people have relocated to other islands in Vanuatu, with a majority going to Santo. 

The government had initially said only those relocating to Maewo would receive government assistance and those choosing to go elsewhere must do so at their own expense.

The volcanic ash fall in Ambae. Photo/ Vanuatu Red Cross.

A spokesperson for the Port Vila Ambae Disaster Committee, Henry Vira, says the government may now have to reconsider their assistance plan, since most of the evacuees are opting to go to other islands.

"There's recognition now that we have to go with the realistic situation, that the majority of people are moving to another location apart from where the government was intending for them," says Vira.

"I'm hoping with that there'll come more commitment from Government to meet those who have evacuated to other places."

Father Bice says he wants the government to do more.

"When we left our homes we left all our belongings - bedding, light and other stuff to help the people while we're in Maewo... The government has to give us more assistance."

A state of emergency was declared over Ambae late last month and is effective until September 26.

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