Banaban Voice

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Michael Field -

Kiribati's 100,000 people are considering moving on to vast floating platforms as the rising Pacific Ocean begins consuming their atoll archipelago scattered along the Equator, their president Anote Tong says.

"If you are faced with the option of being submerged with your family, what would you do, jump on a rig like that, or not?" he asked reporters. "I think the answer is yes."

He said the plan, under active consideration, would cost $2 billion.

He had seen the models, akin to oil drilling rigs.

"It is like science fiction, like something in space.

"So modern, I don't know if our people could live in it," he said, saying they might be needed in 20 to 40 years.

"We are not ruling out anything, we are considering everything, including floating islands."

Another alternative, he said, could be one of New Zealand's islands.

"Every time I fly to Auckland I see these huge island masses which they think are derelict islands and we would love to have them," he said.

Mr Tong said he would prefer to live on an island than a platform.

"We appeal that if there is humanity in this world, a conscience for the international community to do something about what is happening."

Leaving Kiribati forever was not an option: "Would Kiribati disappear? Never, never; we must have the option to maintain the presence, maintain the nation of Kiribati."

All but two of Kiribati's 32 islands are no more than five metres above sea-level but Banaba has been destroyed by colonial era phosphate mining and Kiritimati or Christmas Island has little fresh water.

Most people live on small South Tarawa Atoll.

Mr Tong, a London-trained economist, said climate change was a passionate issue for him.

"We are talking about our survival, not anything else – the most vulnerable are having to face the reality of losing their homes."

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