Prime Minister Charlot Salwai has explained why the Government has proposed Maewo Island as the relocation option for the people of Ambae affected by the escalation of Manaro Voui volcanic activities.

Prime minister Salwai touched on the reasons when he confirmed to the local media yesterday afternoon that the compulsory evacuation of just over 8, 000 people of Ambae who are still on the island, to Maewo, is commencing today.

Confirming that 16 communities on Maewo have confirmed to host the Ambae families, PM Salwai said “Maewo has sufficient vacant land to cater for all the Ambae population.

“Maewo and Ambae have strong cultural linkages, and the chiefs and leaders of both islands have agreed to settle on Maewo following their customary heritage.

“It is within Penama Province and it is best that the population is maintained within the same province to allow the Penama Province to grow.

“Maewo is rich with natural resources including water, food and animals and can provide a good habitat for the people of Ambae.”

The Government has made it clear through its Decision 117/2018 that its resources will be focused on Maewo.

“Any other arrangements with other islands will be at the cost of the individuals who do so,” he said.

While volcanic ash has spread to Maewo, Pentecost and Santo, it is not life threatening and people can live with it. The ash can also increase the fertility of the land and contribute to crop production and yielding on the respective islands.”

In a press conference with local media yesterday morning, Acting Director of VMDG, Esline Bule noted that there are several hazards that accompany volcanoes and they include ash falls, hot ash flows, mudflows, volcanic landslides, lava flows and volcanic gases.

“Maewo and Pentecost are affected only by the ash falls but other dangerous events following the volcanic activities can occur on Ambae and can harm people,” she explained.

According to the Prime minister, the volcano remains are Alert Level 3 meaning it is at minor eruption stage.

“Recent observations has shown some aspects of the volcano has increase 10 to 20 times. A clear example is the explosion which occurred on Thursday July 28, spuing volcanic particulars over 12 km high and emitting over 300, 000 tonnes of gases into the air and spreading over the island across the Pacific including Fiji and Solomon Islands and causing cancellation of international flights between these countries and Vanuatu.”

Mrs. Garaebiti confirmed the emission of gas by this volcano has broken the record of all other volcanoes around Vanuatu.

PM Salwai reiterated that the safety of the lives of the people of Ambae is the paramount responsibility of the Government.

“A State of Emergency has been declared on Ambae. The government is considering this move very seriously and will make every possible way to evacuate all the people off the island. We do not want to risk the lives of the people of Ambae.”

PM Salwai called on all leaders and the people of Ambae to cooperate with the government in the immediate off-island evacuation.

The call is also extended to all leaders of Maewo, Pentecost and other leaders of other islands in Vanuatu to assist the Government through the spirit of partnership and melanesian values to offer assistance to the needy people of Ambae during the disaster time.

The Government wishes to thank all the development partners, civil society organisations, Church based organisations and the private sector for all the support and assistance in the previous disaster events and also the Ambase volcano disaster response.