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Lajmoli Airstrip closed since 2009

By Harrison Selmen PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Aug. 7, 2011) – The people of West Coast Santo in Vanuatu have been facing a lot of difficulties since 2009 when their cheapest means of transportation by air was stopped following the closure of Lajmoli airstrip.

This concern has been constantly repeated by the people of West Coast Santo who are linked to Luganville by air or boat but not on land because there is no access for vehicles to this remote part of the island.

Concerned West coast community member Alfred Maho said he hopes the crashing of two aircrafts on two separate occasions was the reason behind the closing down of the airstrip.

He made this comment following the recent trip by Minister for Justice, Ralph Regenvanu, to the area to launch his political party.

"Why isn’t any review and work done to improve the services to such remote area again? This is another classic example of public money wasted on building the airport without utilizing it. I cannot afford to pay a boat fare around the Cumberland Point for Vt56,000 (USD$599) per return trip only to reach Matantas or even around west coast towards Tassiriki for Vt65,000 (USD$695) for return trip. Who can afford it? A state minister, a member of parliament, a Chinese business man?" Maho questioned.

But that is the reality for the people in the West Coast and North West Coast who have to spend this huge amount just to get to the main trading centre on the southern part of the island.

The return cost of a flight from Santo to Efate is Vt34,000 (USD$363).

"It’s very sad to see such a big development at North West Santo area being ignored by authorities concerned," said Maho.

He said this affects students especially who wish to travel to Luganville after holidays.

Maho said they are still waiting for a response from authorities concerned as to when the airport will be opened again.

Daily Post called the CEO of Air Vanuatu but was told he was in a meeting and could not take his comment on the issue.

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