Ambae volcano crisis: unprecedented mass evacuation facing difficulties

These satellite images, taken 19 August (top) and 29 September (bottom) show the rapid growth of the Manaro Voui volcanic cone. Photo: via Twitter/@planetlabs

These satellite images, taken 19 August (top) and 29 September (bottom) show the rapid growth of the Manaro Voui volcanic cone. Photo: via Twitter/@planetlabs

Awareness sessions have been taking place across Ambae to discuss how the evacuation of Ambae’s 11,000+ people —4% of Vanuatu’s total population– will proceed. 28 patients are being transferred from Lolowai and Nduindui hospitals on Ambae to the Northern District Hospital at Luganville, Santo. Special attention is being given to Ambae’s senior examination year high school students as well.

The Ambae Disaster Committee is said to be unhappy with the efforts of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) which, they feel, is not taking the state of emergency seriously. They have not seen the NDMO achieving much since their announcement of relocations from west to east Ambae last Tuesday. Radio Vanuatu sought an explanation from the NDMO, without success.

Civil society organisations are assisting with evacuations from Ambanga to Lolopuepue, and Vanuatu’s neighbours are also assisting: the New Zealand Government is providing water purifiers for those needing them, while the Australian Government is providing water, shelter kits and emergency rations. This is important, as outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting have been reported in some children who have been moved to evacuation centres, possibly due to the overcrowded conditions. The Council of Ministers is agreed on the need to move people out of Ambae, but PM Charlot Salwai indicated the difficulty of trying to predict what the volcano will do next.

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