Vanuatu resort owner says harassment threatened lives

The owner of a resort on Tanna says someone could have died if he and his guests hadn't fled the Vanuatu island after a third alleged arson there.

Hugh Lowe said a group of youths have been harrassing him for months causing over US$2 million worth of damage.

He said it started with an unsuccessful demand for money, the vandalism of trucks belonging to a Chinese construction firm working there, and the burning of five bungalows.

He said the group returned this week to finish the job, forcing him and around 21 Australian tourists to leave for the capital, Port Vila.

"This was out of the blue and at night and could easily have resulted in serious deaths. Our resort again was full. I wasn't evacuated out, I chose actually to leave, because there was no point in trying to protect property when I am quite certain that lives are at stake," said Mr Lowe.

Mr Lowe said local police have done nothing in the past but he is hopeful a meeting with New Zealand police serving in the islands will change the situation.

The Daily Post reported a fire started in the early hours of Tuesday morning when vehicles were set alight by what appeared to be petrol bombs.

At least one of the tourists is reported to have been injured after stones were thrown

Mr Lowe told the paper staff fought the fire until 5.30am and managed to save some of the buildings.

The first six houses were burnt last month and were reported to be set alight in retaliation for the alleged murder of a young Tannese boy.

Vanuatu's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Moana Carcasses, said he would not tolerate people taking the law into their own hands.

He said Australia was Vanuatu's biggest tourist market and the Government wouldn't stand by while Australian tourists were harassed.

He said he may send members of the Vanuatu Mobile Force to Tanna to arrest the perpetrators.