The entire population of the Vanuatuan island of Ambae has being evacuated amid fears that the giant Manaro volcano is about to erupt.
There has already been a series of smaller eruptions of the Manaro Volcano, caused by the exposure of a new magma chamber on the volcano to the atmosphere. Flying rocks and volcanic gas have been recorded in the immediate 6.5 km (four mile) vicinity. The rest of the island is being affected by hazardous ash falls and acid rain.
The island, located in the south Pacific, about 165 miles north west of Vanuatu’s capital city of Port Vila, has a population of more than 11,000 people. Before the evacuation began, some 8,000 residents had been moved to evacuation centres along the coast, but the deteriorating crisis forced officials to relocate the entire population to the nearby islands of Santo, Pentecost, Malekula and Maewo.
In the early stage of the evacuation, the Anglican Church of Melanesia provided evacuation shelters and basic provision at St Patrick’s College and other properties at Torgil and Tumsisiro on the island of Ambae. Once the decision was taken to evacuate the entire island, the church’s headquarters, on the island of Santa, helped to co-ordinate the relief operation for the evacuees on the nearby islands with police and government officials.
“The situation has been so bad, it has been declared a disaster now,” the Primate of Melanesia, Archbishop George Takeli, said. The archbishop is in Canterbury, Kent, for the 2017 Primates’ Meeting; and has been kept informed of developments by his officials in Melanesia. “The whole island has been evacuated from Ambae to nearby islands. More than 11,000 people. Each person was advised to leave so the whole population has been evacuated.
“The Church is the first initial contact because most of them would be members of the Church,” he said. “Whether it be the Anglican Church or the Presbyterian Church. The Church is the first people who make the initial contact in the villages and they were involved in the whole process in making the decision together to relocate the people.
“As part of the overall evacuation – the government has been a huge player in the whole process as well – they have been provided relocation venues in different villages around the island of Pentecost.”
The Archbishop called on people around the world to pray for those effected: “The most urgent need is to uphold the people of the Republic of Vanuatu, particularly [the people of Ambae] and especially the diocesan bishop, Bishop James Ligo and also Bishop Alfred Worek [of Banks and Torres]. Although it is a huge country, they are almost related. There is one big family of the Church in Vanuatu. Please remember the people in your prayers.
“And at this time it would seem necessary for support of any kind. I had heard that a lot of friends around the world are talking about support. Any support of any kind, in donations through relevant authorities, would be good to support the people.”
One of the Anglican groups supporting the relief operation is the Anglican Church of Australia’s Anglican Board of Mission, which has already released some funds to support the Church of Melanesia’s relief operation and is appealing for additional funds from Australia’s Anglicans.
“There are already challenges from overcrowding in some evacuation centres, where water and sanitation facilities are been stretched beyond capacity,” ABM said. “It will be a long road to recovery in terms of food security, as the acid rains have caused extensive damage to household garden crops. In many communities around Vanuatu, subsistence farming is often the primary means of food production, so any disruption to this growth can be devastating for families.”