Evacuees returning to Ambae against official advice

HUNDREDS of people who were evacuated from the Vanuatu island of Ambae last year are returning to the island against official advice.

The eruption of the volcano at the island’s centre forced the evacuation of Ambae’s more than 10,000 residents in August.

They have been living in temporary accommodation on nearby islands since then, where they’ve complained of cramped conditions and little governnment support.

But in the past few months, with the volcano’s threat downgraded, some villagers have opted to return to Ambae to try and restart their lives.

Peter Korisa, from the National Disaster Management Office, said the authorities were powerless to stop them as a State of Emergency has lapsed.

But he said returning was not recommended because the volcano was still unstable.

“We can’t stop them. The only advice we’re giving them is that if they could wait for some time because we don’t want them to move back early and then the activity starts to increase again and then they need to move out again,” Mr Korisa said.

“(Evacuation) is a time consuming and very costly exercise. So from our side, we don’t encourage people to move too early.”

Eruptions have prompted two evacuations from Ambae in the last two years.

The island’s population was moved to neighbouring islands in September 2017.

The state of emergency was lifted about a month later and residents returned to the island.

But in March last year, the volcano began erupting again prompting a voluntary evacuation which became compulsory at the end of July.

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