Evacuation going according to plan

More than 16 boats have been deployed to repatriate residents of Ambae who were affected by a volcanic eruption on the island.

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 started 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,” Regenvanu said.

The boats are returning people from evacuation centres on Santo, Pentecost and Maewo.

The operations manager at National Disaster Management Office, Peter Korissa, says the repatriation effort is going smoothly so far, and authorities may return the Ambae Islanders earlier than expected.

Minister Regenvanu dismissed suggestions authorities over-reacted in evacuating Ambae, saying they had good advice that the danger was real.

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 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.

Ahead of the repatriations, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister for Internal Affairs travelled to neighbouring islands Santo, Maewo and Pentecost on Friday to thank the communities for hosting the evacuees.