The Government has extended the State of Emergency on Ambae for another two weeks following the decision of the Council of Ministers meeting Tuesday morning.
And it comes as the last state of emergency was due to end the same day.
The decision was announced by the Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai.
He said the Council of Ministers made the decision following the result of a rapid assessment by members of the VMF on Ambae of the situation on the ground after the Department of Geo-hazards downgraded the Alert Level of the volcano on Ambae from 4 to 3.
He added that the extension of the state of emergency will allow National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) to carry out an expanded assessment of the island that will cover the state of the villages, properties including houses, and gardens.
At the same time the extension will allow NDMO to plan the repatriation of the Ambae evacuees now on Santo, Maewo and Pentecost and some in Port Vila.
The Prime Minister confirmed a team of people from cluster groups of NDMO including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) that will assess the quality of water on the island and it includes members from the Departments of Agriculture who will assess the situation with garden crops is now on Ambae.
“When the people left their villages they were advised to release livestock on ropes for instance and the assessment must ascertain the situation with damage from the animals.”
He said all this information and more is required to make the final decision on repatriation of the people.
“The plan for repatriation must be based on how best to move people back and it could probably be that the strong men will be the first to go back or may be based on villages or areas, but this plan will be in place by the end of October,” he added.
Prime Minister Salwai reiterated that the Council of Ministers decided to introduce the state of emergency and to evacuate the whole island because it felt a responsibility to every human life on Ambae in light of the state of the volcano. And the thanked the leaders of Ambae for the understanding and cooperation with the government that saw the smooth and mass evacuation of the people of the island.
He also paid tribute to donor partners, particularly Australia, New Zealand and France and also China and Japan for their assistance. He acknowledged the help from international humanitarian organizations and NGOs.
Most of all he said for the first time the country made the first move in providing help with the government announcing the Vt200 million funding and a wide range of local businesses, and people of all walks of life in Port Vila and throughout Vanuatu helped in different ways including raising funds towards helping the displaced people of Ambae.
The Prime Minister thanked the leaders of Santo, Maewo and Pentecost for opening their doors to help the people of Ambae and the leaders of every province and municipal council for their help.
Last but not the least he thanked the staff of NDMO and the cluster groups and the staff of Geo-hazards with the help of overseas scientists for their assistance.
He said this experience with Ambae volcano will help the country with its resilience in the face of increasing climate change impacts from natural disasters.