1 Aug 2018

West Ambae wasn't consulted ahead of evacuation order, leader claims

3:07 pm on 1 August 2018

A community leader from West Ambae says Vanuatu disaster officials did not assess his side of the island before an order was made to evacuate.

The Ambae volcano

The Ambae volcano Photo: Supplied/ Brad Scott

The government ordered the island's evacuation last week when the eruption from the volcano at its centre re-intensified.

The island's north, east, and south has been covered in ash, and people in those areas had reported food shortages and a lack of water.

But Smith Guero, who is the chair of the West Ambae Disaster Committee, said the west had been largely unaffected, and people there saw no reason to leave.

"Even the NDMO officer from the province [office] which is on the other side of the island, from the east, they never came to the western side to do an assessment. I think it's not, ah, West Ambaeans should not [have to] move because we are here, we are safe.

"Only the south and east and north are affected."

Smith Guero said most villages have opted to charter ships and evacuate themselves to the big island of Santo, rather than the government's evacuation location on the nearby island of Maewo.

"We are trying to encourage communities here in West at the level of family and level of community to try and acquire land on Santo for their second home so we don't have to depend on the government. So when we move, we have already got land on Santo to go and settle in."

He said people were preparing to be away from their homelands for a very long time.

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