Humanitarian response rolls out to support evacuees amid reports food supplies running out


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The Australian Government is providing the HMAS Choules to support the evacuation of Ambae islanders. It will also carry urgently needed food, water, shelter, and hygiene kits and it will fund aerial assistance of affected areas. Australian military C-17 Globemasters loaded with supplies have landed in Port Vila. Experts to assist with situations arising, concerning health or emergency issues are also on board. The ship is working closely with FRANZ partners, France and New Zealand. NZ Defence Force C-130 Hercules have arrived at Pekoa Airport, Santo with humanitarian supplies.

The Vanuatu Geohazards Department thinks that the Ambae volcano situation is becoming more settled. The active lava-producing vents are near the centre of the island. Lava bombs can be seen above the vents showing glowing lava in the vents. Flights over the weekend around the island showed the activity to be only at one of the summit crater lakes, Lake Voui. Today’s report concentrates on the frequency of Ambae eruptions, generally likely within a 10-50 year span. There is only the eruption in the summit crater. Every indication is that the system is not developing further, the VMGD says.

However, it has not been easy for those being evacuated. Community leader Nelson Garae felt that conditions for some of the journeys were not adequately planned. There was insufficient food available on land or sea transport, he said, and passengers were lucky when at one stage Ambae MP Jay Ngwele was able to provide a breakfast for 1,080 people for the whole of North Ambae on one transfer. There was also a question of housing at the Chapuis landing stage at Santo and not enough provision for the needs of evacuees there. Garae also concentrated on the essentials left at home, comprising houses and crops, valuable farm animals and dogs. But, he said “we brought with us our God-given wisdom, our languages and our cultures and traditional ways of life including custom values, our men, women, young people and children to keep our Ambae generation growing. Ambae, we did not forsake you. We will return to you someday,” said Garae.

Almost 4,000 Ambae students are not receiving the education to which they are entitled owing to their being evacuated from their island.