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Volcanic eruption: an island of Vanuatu is evacuated

Photographs by Alana Holmberg for IPPF / Oculi

The Vanuatu authorities declared a state of emergency on Ambae Island at the end of July 2018 due to the renewed activity of the Marano volcano. This Pacific island, which is the emerged part of the volcano, is declared a disaster zone in its entirety. Its permanent evacuation is ordered urgently: the 11,000 inhabitants have one week to leave their lands and prepare their relocation on the neighbouring islands.

After a first complete but temporary evacuation in September 2017, after an incentive to leave the island permanently in May 2018 and after the installation on the coasts of evacuation camps for the 650 most exposed inhabitants, the residents of Ambae have in August 2018 no choice but to abandon their homes, their lands and the 402 km2 of their island to eruptions, ashes, and volcanic gases.

The Vanuatu government announces that it will take charge of evacuating the population to the neighbouring island of Maewo. Transport is free and organized, health and medical care are provided, food aid is guaranteed until the first harvest of the land made available allows the displaced to live.

So far, only 4000 inhabitants of Ambae officially subscribed to this solution. Beyond the reluctance to leave their island, settling on the island of Maewo remains problematic for many wether for security reasons - Maewo remains close to the volcano and could be affected - or for economic reasons - Maewo being considered underdeveloped. Many inhabitants of Ambae prefer to finance and organise their own evacuation to Espiritu Santo island, the largest island of Vanuatu, in the hope of being able to rebuild a sustainable life there.

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