Vanuatu PM promises evacuees they will return home

Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai has promised the thousands evacuated from the island of Ambae that they will return home.

Mr Salwai visited evacuation centres in Penama and Sanma provinces yesterday where more than 11,000 people have been taken since the Manaro Voui volcano began belching ash and smoke over a fortnight ago.

The last boatloads were due to arrive at the islands of Maewo, Pentecost and Espiritu Santo yesterday, and they potentially face months away from home.

Disaster authorities are being assisted by French, Australian and New Zealand defence personnel and various international NGOs who have brought tonnes of relief supplies.

At an evacuation centre on Espiritu Santo, Mr Salwai called for solidarity and commended both the evacuees and their hosts for their resilience and sense of community in trying times.

The latest report from the Vanuatu geohazards department said the volcano was now more settled and the possibility of a large eruption was looking less likely.

However, the alert level for the volcano has not been lowered and the director of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), Shadrack Welegtabit, has been cautioning people not to read too much into the report.

"As long as the state of emergency is still in place NDMO and partner agencies will implement the Council of Ministers' decision.

"There is still one more week of it, it will still be in place next week."



Photo: Nixon Garae Tambeana People being evacuated from Ambae.