5 Mar 2007

Calm restored in Vanuatu capital after weekend violence

3:20 pm on 5 March 2007

Calm has been restored in Vanuatu's capital Port Vila, after violent tribal clashes there at the weekend left two people dead.

Residents of Port Vila are in shock after news of the violence, which erupted at the Blacksands squatter settlement on the edge of town on Saturday afternoon.

Fighting erupted over an allegation that a man from Ambrym had stabbed a Tannese at the settlement, and in return an Ambrym man was also stabbed to death.

The government has imposed a two-week state of emergency in Port Vila, which gives police powers to use firearms to quell further clashes.

The state of emergency also forbids public meetings, and restricts movement in and around the capital.

The Minister for Internal Affairs, George Wells, says life in Vila is returning to normal.

"There's a few houses that have been burning down, and also looting. And when we went down to the hospital on Saturday night to visit the casualties we found out there were ten of them - two of them dead, one in a critical condition, but the other seven of them were recovering from their wounds."

George Wells says so far police have arrested 138 people over the clashes.