The erupting sounds of the sleeping Lobenben volcano which was witnessed for the first time in the early hours of September 24 caused the inland villagers on the western part of the island to flee to the coastal areas while families in the southern part took refuge in the East.
A declaration of a State of Emergency was made by the Government followed by a call for an evacuation of the whole island.
When the Ambae Port Vila community were alerted, they mobilized themselves with immediate effect and a disaster committee was established which comprised of representatives from the West, Northwest, East and Southern parts of Ambae during an urgent meeting on September 25.
An office was set up on the grounds of Sarabulu Churches of Christ in Port Vila and at the Vunamele Churches of Christ in Luganville, Santo.
According to the report of the disaster committee, the two temporary offices coordinated multiple activities around the clock.
“The offices looked into the relocation of people to safe zones on Ambae, appealed for assistance from the public and private sectors, secured flights from both Air Vanuatu and private aircraft taxis and sea vessels,” the report stated.
“Storing of donations that came in, dispatching of food and water to Ambae and later to Santo, providing information to families, movement of everybody from Ambae to Santo and receiving the in-flux of evacuees on Santo.”
The Ambae Port Vila community have expressed their heartfelt gratitude to all individuals, schools, communities, business houses, government workers and NGOs that have shed tears, knelt and prayed, called into the office personally with gifts and have sent in donations of all kinds.
“A thumbs up for the ship owners, captains and crews and pilots, members of the force who have see the urgency of the matter and assisted,” they said.
“We also want to acknowledged the dedicated members of the committee and the community of Ambae who have worked tirelessly both in Port Vila and Santo to assist in the evacuation and finally, without God, it would have been a very difficult exercise so we want to thank Him for His Divine Intervention.”
According to the report, there were approximately 30 boat trips and 25 chartered flights during the evacuation, there were donations from 230 individuals and 50 groups, items and cash received was a total of Vt1, 130, 541, goods-1,517 cartons of water, 340 bags of 25kg rice, shelter, clothes and beddings, toiletries and kitchenwares were donated and dispatch of items totaled to three boatloads to Ambae and two to Santo.
“The people of Ambae are now on Maewo, Pentecost, Santo and Port Vila, we are still appealing for more help. The two offices in Port Vila and Luganville are still in operation,” the report concluded.