Vila Times

Ambae evacuees to return home in November

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A state of emergency in Vanuatu has been extended for another two weeks.

Vanuatu’s Council of Ministers made the decision for the island of Ambae during an urgent meeting Tuesday, reports RNZI.

Eleven thousand people were evacuated from Ambae. They have been in camps on Santo, Maewo and Pentecost, awaiting a decision from the government on when they can return to their island.

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai said the extension would allow more time for assessments before letting people return, and followed advice from the Disaster Management Office and the Geo-Hazards Department.

He said the Council of Ministers has also instructed disaster management authorities and the Penama Provincial government to finalise a repatriation plan before a decision was made to move people back to Ambae.

The prime minister said extending the state of emergency meant the enhanced presence of the police on Ambae would continue.

Most of them are in 74 evacuation centres on neighbouring Santo waiting to hear when or if they can return. Ambae community leader James Aru said the authorities on Santo had assured them they were welcome, but people are keen to get home.

The Red Cross’ Shirley Jones said evacuees were coping well despite overcrowding.