PACIFIC NATION SEEKS SANCTUARY FOR 10,500 AS WATERS RISE
DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR in Wellington
Wednesday, February 23, 2000
The Prime Minister of the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, which is threatened with being overcome by the sea because of global warming, has appealed to New Zealand to offer sanctuary to its 10,500 people.
"Tuvaluans are seeking a place that they can permanently migrate to, should the high tides eventually make our home uninhabitable," Prime Minister Ionatana Ionatana was quoted as saying yesterday by the Wellington-based Dominion newspaper.
A record spring tide of 3.2 metres above sea level flooded roads and lapped at the doors of seaside homes on Tuvalu's main island of Funafuti at the weekend. Nowhere in Tuvalu, which is made up of nine low-lying coral atolls with a total land area of 26 square km, is more than four metres above sea level.
Mr Ionatana said he was appealing to Fiji, Australia and New Zealand to offer homes to the people of Tuvalu, which was part of the British colony of Gilbert and Ellice Islands until it became independent in 1978.
"Fiji is relaxing its policy, bending its law, to allow for Tuvaluans to stay permanently with relatives," he said.
"I am expecting New Zealand to do a lot more because Australia has not been forthcoming."
The plight of Tuvalu and Kiribati, another island group to its north also threatened by rising sea levels, has attracted the attention of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who told a special session of the General Assembly in September both had "trouble in paradise".
---Published in the South China Morning Post. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.