Second evacuation on Ambae will cost Vanuatu government Vt200million: DG Benjamin

PORT VILA, 23 APRIL 2018 (VANUATU DAILY POST) – Vanuatu Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Climate Change and Disaster Management, Jesse Benjamin, said the operation cost of another massive evacuation on Ambae starting at the end of April is likely Vt200million (US$1.8 million), a similar figure to last year’s operation.

The evacuation operation cost in 2017 exceeded the Council of Ministers (COM) expectation of Vt200 million (US$1.8million), he said.

The second evacuation is taking place just six months after last year’s repatriation.

This means in less than a year, the government will likely spend almost Vt500 million (US$4.6 million) on the Ambae disaster, in addition to the Vt40million (US$368,000) COM recently approved to meet immediate needs of volcanic ash victims.

DG Benjamin assured there is money to execute another evacuation.

The government, after repatriating people on October last year continued to assist in recovery efforts for another three months.

It has deployed emergency response officers following the recent state of emergency declaration and it is bearing the cost of all transport they are using on ground and their subsistence daily allowances.

It will be providing sea and probably air transport again to evacuate people to safe places on other islands where it will continue to meet their needs.

Logistic is the expensive part of any disaster relief.

The government may seek the assistance of donor countries like Australia and New Zealand to help with transport to save cost, according to DG Benjamin.

The second evacuation will be done in an orderly manner and structured process unlike last year, he said.

“The government is concern about the safety of people and those intending to remain on the island should reconsider their safety, he added.

Daily Post has been told that the Penama Provincial Government plans to bring chiefs from Pentecost and Maewo in a forum at Saratama on Ambae to talk about securing permanent resettlement.

Chiefs from Pentecost, Maewo and other islands like Santo have indicated assistance to offer land to the displaced families.

The government wants to follow legal procedure to secure land outside Ambae where people can live safely without disturbance, said the DG.

The DG led a delegation to Ambae recently to meet the Penama Provincial Government Council over the evacuation operation plan.

They made sure that the province aligns its plans with national plans.

Provincial authorities were made clear that there is no certainty volcano activity will reduce or increase at anytime and that there is no scientific evidence that the whole Ambae island is safe from ash.

A number of families had voluntarily evacuated since ash begun falling last month, leaving less than 11,000 people to evacuate.

The important thing now is securing a safe place for people so they know where to go if things comes to worse in the future, said DG Benjamin.