PNG volcano: Authorities to resettle 2,000 evacuees on mainland as island volcano erupts

PNG volcano: Authorities to resettle 2,000 evacuees on mainland as island volcano erupts

PNG volcano: Authorities to resettle 2,000 evacuees on mainland as island volcano erupts

Updated 10 January 2018, 18:05 AEDT

The Papua New Guinea government says it will resettle around 2,000 people displaced after a long-dormant island volcano began erupting last week.

The Papua New Guinea government has said it will resettle around 2,000 people displaced after the long-dormant Kadovar Island volcano began erupting last week.

Key points:

  • Authorities had thought around 700 people lived on the island, but it is closer to 2,000
  • The government has committed $59,000 for disaster relief assistance
  • Disaster officials say $1.2 million will be needed to relocate those affected

The 365-metre-tall volcano has been spewing out huge amounts of smoke and ash, contaminating water sources and destroying the local community's food gardens.

The PNG government plans to resettle the displaced people near the nearby provincial capital of Wewak, in the country's East Sepik Province.

The military will assist with the relocation effort and the director of PNG's National Disaster Centre, Martin Mose, said supplies for evacuees are on the way.

"We had a meeting with all our stakeholders and humanitarian partners today and we agreed that most of the relief supplies like tarpaulins for instance, and other foodstuffs, need to go," Mr Mose said.

PNG Defence Force soldiers are evacuating people onto neighbouring islands, and army personnel will transport materials for temporary shelters to Wewak.

"[A] PNG defence force chopper left yesterday, now it's already on the island, and communications have been installed," Defence Minister Solan Mirisim said.

Government looking for resettlement site

Earlier reports had stated the number of evacuees from Kadovar Island as being closer to 700 people, however this figure was based on electoral roll information and the actual population is far higher, local media reported.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill committed 150,000 Kina ($59,000) for disaster relief assistance.

PNG's Department of Disaster Management said the government must approve 3 million Kina ($1.2 million) to relocate those forced to evacuate due to the eruption.

But the country is facing serious financial problems that may affect the Kadovar Island relocation exercise.

PNG's Minister for Disaster Management, Kevin Isifu, said the government had a comprehensive plan for the resettlement.

"The long term plan is to permanently relocate the people. As I'm speaking [Kadovar Island] is being already damaged by the volcanic lava and activity," he said.

"We are looking at an emergency resettlement site on the mainland, we are also looking to secure a transit centre for the affected [people].

'It will be another Manam situation'

The government has been criticised for its handling of previous mass relocation efforts.

In 2004, the volcano on Manam Island had a major eruption forcing the evacuation of 9,000 people.

The Manam people still live in a care centre outside the town of Madang — their population has ballooned to 15,000, and the community still lacks basic services.

Mr Isifu said the government will assist both the Manam and Kadovar people.

"It will be another Manam situation that is now on hand for the government to deal with," he said.

"Now that we have Kadovar Island, these will all be related issues coming up. We will try and address both at the same time."