26 Nov 2009

300 evacuated from villages in Vanuatu due to gas and ash from volcano

2:25 pm on 26 November 2009

More than 300 people are to be evacuated from today from three villages in the north of Vanuatu because of gas and ash fall from a volcano.

The government has sent the country's paramilitary and mobile forces, and the Vanuatu Red Cross Society to monitor the evacuation from the west of the island of Gaua in Torba province.

The director of the National Disaster Management Office, Job Esau says people have been suffering from respiratory problems and diarrhoea in the last few days as a strong wind has carried the gas and ash.

Reports from Gaua says two boats from the police and health department in Torba are starting to evacuate people this morning.

They are starting with children, women, the elderly and disabled.

Mr Esau says they will negotiate with ships owners to help with the evacuation because the two motor boats can not carry enough people.

Chiefs from two villages, Namasari and Lembot, from the east of Gaua met yesterday about housing the relocated people.

At the moment, the National Disaster Management Office has maintained the level of alert on 2 but Esau says during the past days, ash fall and the gas has increased.