Pacific / Vanuatu

Santo chiefs agree to resettle Ambae's volcano evacuees

14:01 pm on 26 April 2018

The Council of Chiefs on Vanuatu's Santo island has reportedly agreed to resettle 11,000 people from volcanically active Ambae.

People being evacuated from Ambae. Photo: Nixon Garae Tambeana

Ambae's Manaro Voui crater is at alert level three of five, posing a threat to the health of the island's inhabitants, who are being encouraged by the government to evacuate.

The crater on Mount Lombenben began erupting in September last year, prompting a short term evacuation.

It intensified last month, forcing the government to announce a state of emergency.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported Ambae's paramount chief, John Tarilama, requested the land from Santo's council during a recent traditional ceremony organised by the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs.

Chief Tarilama told the newspaper the chair of Santo's Tabwemasana Council agreed to the request and was writing a letter to the government to grant it the right to start the process.

On Tuesday, internal affairs minister Andrew Napuat said a government request for land for the people of Ambae had prompted a good response from neighbouring islands, like Santo, Maewo and Pentecost.

But ash fall from Ambae was also affecting Maewo and Pentecost which were not large enough to accomodate his people, Chief Tarilama said.

The principal of St Patrick's College on Ambae said the ash had spilled into every classroom, forcing the school to close last Friday. Photo: Supplied / St Patrick's College

A proposed site on Santo where the people of Ambae could be resettled was big enough for all 11,000, the chief said.

"Even I personally went to see the potential land boundary which is a large flat area of land and I was happy with it. It has enough place to accommodate the people of North, South, East and West Ambae in their respective areas,"Chief Tarilama said.

Meanwhile, volcanologists monitoring the eruption on Ambae said it was likely to ease with ash fall on the island reported to have reduced.

The Vanuatu Geohazards department is monitoring five other active volcanos, setting alert level two for the volcano on Lopevi island

The threat to life on Lopevi is minimal following mass evacuations in 1939 and 1960.