Exodus from Ambae

Vast plumes of steam rise from lake Manaro, which surrounds Ambae's newest volcanic vent. This lake is normally blue and placid.

North Ambae Paramount Chief Tari One of Ambanga Village has led a high-ranking custom chiefs’ delegation to the Manaro to perform a fitting ceremony and offer food and meat and mats to the custodian of the Lake Voui, Kelevu, at the shore of the lake approximately two weeks ago.

The purpose of the custom ceremony was to quieten the fire of Lake Voui. A similar ceremony was organised in similar circumstances in 2005.

A prominent community leader from North Ambae and entrepreneur, Jeannut Sese made the revelation to the writer of this article outside Fung Kuei yesterday.

With advice from the Meteorology and Geo-Hazard Department that the Manaro Volcanic “activity now more settled”, those who were aware of the custom ceremony have shrugged, “Of course Tagaro won’t allow the fire to destroy our island on top of the highly relevant custom ceremony that was performed and accepted by Kelevu”.

In other words they believed the custom ceremony had something to do with the current level of “settled” eruption.

While Sese did not follow the chiefs to the shores of Lake Voui, when pressed to say what the ceremony involved, he said, “The delegation walked down to the shore of Lake Voui. A highly valued animal (pig) was slaughtered in line with custom. Chief Tari One uttered a custom address at the shore of Lake Voui before the ingredients complete with meat, food and mats were offered by being released into the lake”.

Now Sese has joined MP Jay Ngwele to confirm that a large number of evacuees from North Ambae have slept for a second night in the open at Chapuis Stadium.

He appeals to the Government, NDMO and Sanma Provincial Government, to assist with basic essentials for the new arrivals.

While ship owners have had to reschedule their vessels to transport Ambaeans from their island to Santo, Maewo, Pentecost and Malekula in the current emergency, Sese warns that nobody should be using the situation as a way to make money on the suffering of his wantoks.

In addition he says it does not make sense that police and Vanuatu Mobile Force personnel are left to care for an empty island now that the majority of the population has been relocated to other islands.

Those who have left Ambae are worried about the fate of their gardens, animals, businesses and homes.

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