Pacific News Minute: Volcanic Eruption Expected to Force Permanent Evacuation of Vanuatu Island

May 9, 2018

Vanuatu's Ambae Island
Credit Wikimedia Commons

There has been a lot of national and international news coverage of the eruption of Kiluea. As you know, dozens of homes on the Big Island have been destroyed and thousands of people have been forced to relocate. But an eruption in Vanuatu may force more than 10,000 people to abandon their homes permanently. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Vanuatu’s Council of Ministers has been struggling with a decision on evacuation for weeks, after parts of Ambae Island were buried by ash.

The thatched roofs of traditional houses have collapsed under the weight, gardens have been ruined, water contaminated and the air fouled by noxious gas and fine grained ash. Thousands have already relocated to safer parts of the island; some are reported eager to evacuate entirely, but others are reluctant to leave. 

Almost everyone did leave Ambae last fall, in a temporary evacuation.

New Zealand volcanologist Brad Scott told RNZ Pacific that the Manaro volcano was then in its first phase of eruption. People returned when Manaro appeared to calm, but Scott said there’s since been a second phase, with lots of lava flow, and now a third, more explosive phase, generating plumes of ash and gas.

Government spokesman Hilaire Bule told ABC Australia that he expects the Council of Ministers to order permanent evacuation as soon as this week. Residents of Ambae would be moved to the nearby islands of Pentacost and Maewo, and would have to be provided with new homes and schools, “It’s not an easy decision,” he said.

Australia, New Zealand and France have all provided aid.