The preparations for the Pacific Islands Forum in the Marshall Islands have stepped up as locals work around the clock to complete an island village of thatched huts for the opening of the leaders' summit next week.
More than a dozen huts in the capital, Majuro, were in final stages of construction and thatching yesterday, with technicians attaching solar panels donated by the European Union that will light up the area at night.
A flotilla of outrigger canoes spent yesterday afternoon practicing sailing along the route that will be used on Tuesday to transport Pacific heads of state from their hotel to the opening ceremony.
Meanwhile, hundreds of dancers practiced on an outdoor stage in the capital across from the thatched hut village, while down the street dozens of workers painted lines on the main road and completed newly installed median strip fencing.
The solar power systems in the island village showcase units that have now been installed at nearly every house and community building on remote islands where about a third of the 53,000 people live in the Marshall Islands.
About 400 government, business, non-government organization and media representatives have begun pouring into Majuro, with the largest contingent arriving on flights tomorrow through to Monday.
The Forum officially opens Tuesday afternoon, with two days of official meetings Wednesday and Thursday, and a final Post-Forum Dialogue session on Friday.
This is the largest event the Marshall Islands has hosted since the last Pacific leaders' summit was held in Majuro 17 years ago.