Belching Vanuatu volcano may blow, forces 7000 to flee

Ambae volcano

While Monaro has been active since its last eruption in 2005, it wasn't until this past weekend that activity levels were raised to a Level 4.

The New Zealand government has announced it is sending an RNZAF P-3K2 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft to monitor Manaro Voui and the two other volcanoes, Benbow and Lopevi, now erupting Vanuatu.

The NZDF will deliver the data collected - both aerial photographs and infrared images - to scientists who have been tracking the volcano.

The increasingly active volcano forced a state of emergency on Tuesday and, as a result, 70 percent of Ambae Island's 10,000 residents were forced to flee the area. Villagers close to the volcano have been moved to schools and community halls on the island's less vulnerable eastern and western regions.

Vanuatu's Meteorology and Geohazards Department said in an alert that villagers within 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) of the volcano face the biggest risk from airborne rocks and volcanic gas. The department warned that acid rain could damage crops across a broader area.

The island nation is frequently subjected to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes and is ranked by the United Nations University's Institute for Environment and Human Security as the country most at risk for natural disasters in the world.

"We want to be more proactive before we have to worry about pyroclast (where rocks and other fragments are hurled by the eruption) and stuff like that", he said.

Officials said on Sunday morning that the volcano had not yet erupted and there did not appear to be any ash.

He said the military "always stands ready to support our Pacific neighbors, especially in times like this".

"Vanuatu sits on the Pacific's "'Ring of Fire", the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes and volcanoes are common.

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