Australia provides $250,000 in relief for communities displaced by Vanuatu volcano

Australia has pledged over $230,000 to help people displaced by the increasingly active Lombenben volcano on Ambae.

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The volcano’s activity led the government to pledge up to $250,000 to support affected communities, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said. 

The aid will include humanitarian supplies, funding for aerial surveillance of the regions near Ambae and assistance to the Vanuatu police to manage the movement of those displaced by the volcano. 

“We are considering what additional support may be needed, including military assets that could be deployed to assist affected communities,” the spokesman said. He also noted the Australian government was closely working with its counterparts from Vanuatu, New Zealand and France.

 

The Government of Vanuatu earlier said its patrol boat, RVS Tukoro, departed Port Vila on Tuesday to deliver Australian supplies to affected communities through the Vanuatu Red Cross Society. 

It said Australia has released “much needed supplies like food, water, shelter and hygiene kits for affected communities on Ambae and provide funding for surveillance flights over Ambae and Ambrym’s volcanoes.”

Australian High Commissioner, Jenny Da Rin, said: “Australia has responded to a request for assistance from the Vanuatu Government to help deliver much needed supplies to affected communities on Ambae. Australia is providing food, water and shelter to those displaced by Lombenben volcano”.  

On Monday September 25, the Vanuatu Government said it issued a request through the FRANZ (France, Australia and New Zealand) partnership to provide assistance to the people of Ambae. 

Vanuatu: Ambae Planning MapGovernment of Vanuatu

Mass evacuation

Vanuatu on Thursday ordered the compulsory evacuation of Ambae after the huge volcano rumbled to life over the weekend, threatening a major eruption.

All 11,000 people on the island of Ambae – in the Pacific archipelago’s north – will be evacuated by October 6, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai’s office said.

Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) said it was the first time in living memory that an island’s whole population had been moved because of volcanic activity.

#Vanuatu: Do not travel to #Ambaeisland due to Vanuatu Gov ordered evacuation. 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/V8AZIL99Lq

— Smartraveller (@Smartraveller) September 28, 2017

“We have the shipping capacity here in Vanuatu to move 11,000 people, it will be mainly commercial vessels moving people to neighbouring islands,” NDMO director Shadrack Welegtabit told AFP.

Most of Ambae’s population is already sheltering in evacuation centres on the island after the Manaro Voui volcano rained rocks and ash on their villages.

It sent up a plume of steam and ash over the weekend, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency and raise the volcano’s threat level to four, the second highest rating.

“We have already moved people out of the high ground to safe areas in the west and the east (of Ambae island),” Welegtabit said. 

“The likelihood is that it will go to level five… (so) we have to get people off the island.”

The volcano, also known as Aoba and Lombenben, has three lakes in its crater and last erupted in late 2005.

On that occasion about 5,000 people were evacuated and it was three months before the volcano settled enough for them to return home.

Welegtabit said emergency officials were looking at using schools and other large buildings on neighbouring islands for temporary accommodation.

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He said it was impossible to know how long the emergency would last.

“It’s a question of how long the volcanic activity will continue, nobody knows,” he said.

The eruption so far while officially classed as “moderate”, has led to warnings of flying rocks, acid rain and volcanic gas.

It has also laid a blanket of ash over crops and water sources in an area that was already experiencing a dry spell.

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