Santo chiefs agree to resettle Ambae's volcano evacuees

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

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 accommodate his people, Chief Tarilama said.