27 Nov 2009

Gas masks sent to Vanuatu island where locals are forced to evacuate

12:15 pm on 27 November 2009

Gas masks are expected to arrive today on the Vanuatu island where volcanic ash and gas is forcing the evacuation of more than 350 people.

The volcano on Gaua in Torba province has been erupting since September.

But recent fresh eruptions have increased the volume of gas and ash which has been carried by a strong wind to three villages in the island's west.

The people there are now being evacuated to the east of the island by boat, after some began experiencing health problems including diarrhoea, skin irritations, and respiratory complaints.

The general secretary of Torba province, Shadrach Welegtabit, says gas masks are being brought in to help people with breathing

"We are having some coming in tomorrow by air. We'll be using those when we are in the process of evacuating people and giving it to the general population in the affected area."

Shadrach Welegtabit says the evacuation has been planned for a while, and the people may have to remain in the east for some time.