5 Oct 2017

Vanuatu PM promises evacuees they will return home

1:56 pm on 5 October 2017

Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai has promised the thousands evacuated from the island of Ambae that they will return home.

Mr Salwai visited evacuation centres in Penama and Sanma provinces yesterday where more than 11,000 people have been taken since the Manaro Voui volcano began belching ash and smoke over a fortnight ago.

The last boatloads were due to arrive at the islands of Maewo, Pentecost and Espiritu Santo yesterday, and they potentially face months away from home.

Disaster authorities are being assisted by French, Australian and New Zealand defence personnel and various international NGOs who have brought tonnes of relief supplies.

At an evacuation centre on Espiritu Santo, Mr Salwai called for solidarity and commended both the evacuees and their hosts for their resilience and sense of community in trying times.

The latest report from the Vanuatu geohazards department said the volcano was now more settled and the possibility of a large eruption was looking less likely.

However, the alert level for the volcano has not been lowered and the director of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), Shadrack Welegtabit, has been cautioning people not to read too much into the report.

"As long as the state of emergency is still in place NDMO and partner agencies will implement the Council of Ministers' decision.

"There is still one more week of it, it will still be in place next week."

People beinPeople being evacuated from Ambae.

People being evacuated from Ambae. Photo: Nixon Garae Tambeana

Help needed for people with special needs

Hundreds of the elderly and people living with disabilities in the evacuation camps are in desperate need of specialised care.

The Red Cross's Shirley Johnson said evacuation centres set up on the nearby islands of Pentecost, Maewo and Espiritu Santo did not have the capacity to properly care for those with special needs.

"Most of them have health issues and they really need lots of hygienic facilities such as hygiene kits, we need soaps, we need mattresses, we need blankets to keep the elderly warm. We need adult diapers and all this."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs