Entire exodus ordered on Vanuatu’s Ambae


The Prime Minister Charlot Salwai says he expects the mass evacuation of up to eleven thousand people to begin immediately. Ships being deployed to conduct the evacuations should complete the exercise by the 6th of October. The Coordinator for the Vanuatu Redcross Dickenson Tevi says people have been displaced before due to eruptions but a whole island’s populace has never been evacuated.

“The whole island itself, it is not safe with the way the activity has been ongoing  at level four until now. So we are just waiting on the Council of Ministers decision this morning and there might be a major change of plans. “

The Member of Parliament for Ambae says he’s very concerned about people’s safety and wellbeing. Jacob Mata says many people have already left the island but those who do not want to leave may have no choice. He says there are about eight thousand people remaining on Ambae, and most are in shelters near the sea shore, preparing to depart.

“Since the eruptions in the last three weeks probably I can guess about 15 to 20 per cent of the population has already gone. So probably another eight thousand are still here. But it will probably take them about three to four days maybe, it depends on how the operations will go on.”

Jacob Mata says the island’s volcano has a history of large eruptions with one in the 1860s causing significant damage. With a new sense of urgency around Manaro, most people will be relocated to public land on the neighbouring island of Pentecost, according to the Media Director of the Vanuatu Daily Post  Dan McGarry.

“They’ll be travelling by ship, that’s the only reasonable way to ferry that number of people involved. In conjuction with this exodus they will be issuing travel restrictions in the immediate area so that people won’t be able to travel in to the affected area and this should facilitate the flow of people.”

Mr McGarry says the Prime Minister has taken the precaution of a compulsory mass evacuation in order to potentially save lives given the volcano’s unpredicability. He says he expects the people of Ambae to be welcomed once they reach Pentecost.

“They almost certainly will be welcomed. There are a number of families who actually have ties across both of these islands you see a lot of common names and their languages are fairly close to one another. People are extremely accommodating whenever somebody is facing hardship.”

The Vanuatu Geohazards rating on the volcano remains on the second highest level of four for now.