19 Jun 2002

Marshalls mayor says displaced people will have to wait

3:43 pm on 19 June 2002

The mayor of the Marshall Islands atoll of Rongelap says it may be some time before displaced islanders can return home despite an overwhelming majority saying they want to.

James Matayoshi says more than 80 percent of Rongelap Islanders want to leave Majetto where they shifted to in 1985 following the contamination of Rongelap by U.S. nuclear tests in the 50s.

He says there's no fish on Majetto and the people have no access to medical facilities.

But, Mr Matayoshi says although they've built roads, a power plant and other basic infrastructure, the council can't draw down on the trust fund at this point.

"Unfortunately, because of the bad economy now, we are kind of like waiting for when the economy improves and when our trust fund grows a little more, so we can start drawing down on funds to build houses and schools and dispensaries."

Mr Matayoshi says it could be two to three years before Rongelap Islanders are able to return home.