Vanuatu volcano: Ambae islanders to return to villages as Manaro settles
The Vanuatu Government will start sending Ambae islanders back to their villages as a volcano on the island appears to have stabilised.
Ambae island was evacuated late last month when the Manaro volcano threatened to erupt, with its 11,000 residents taken to shelters on neighbouring islands.
Geology and Mines Minister Ralph Regenvanu said the Government would control the repatriation process, which is expected to take just three days.
The first repatriations will start on Saturday, he said, adding that the highly-managed process will be under the command of the police.
“The Government will move people from the evacuation centres in the host communities where they are to the wharves,” Mr Regenvanu said.
“No-one is supposed to move on their own … [and] no-one will be allowed to voluntarily return to the island during the state of emergency.”
Mr Regenvanu dismissed suggestions authorities over-reacted in evacuating Ambae, saying they had good advice that the danger was real.
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The local member for Ambae had earlier told Pacific Beat the Vanuatu Government’s decision to compulsorily evacuate the entire island was based on too little evidence.
Jay Ngwele said while he understood the Government made the decision to protect lives, he was surprised to learn there were only two seismic stations on Ambae.
But Mr Regenvanu said the Government could only go by best advice available, and the Geohazards department used its contacts around the region and beyond to ensure it was providing sound analysis.
“The recommendation was it’s better everyone leaves the island because there’s an imminent possible major eruption that will basically involve the whole island exploding,” he said.
“We took the decision that it’s better to be safe than sorry, and indications have come that the volcano has now been able to vent, which has released the pressure.”
Ahead of the repatriations, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister for Internal Affairs will travel to neighbouring islands Santo, Maewo and Pentecost on Friday to thank the communities for hosting the evacuees.