Over 8 000 people evacuated around Aoba (Ambae) volcano, Vanuatu


More than 8 000 people living near Aoba (Ambae) volcano in Vanuatu were forced to evacuate over the past several days due to increase in volcanic activity.

The Vanuatu Government’s Council of Ministers has declared the State of Emergency on Ambae island on September 25, allowing public funds to be released for the emergency response to the eruption of Aoba volcano.

A new cinder cone and magma lake have formed at the volcano, precipitously close to the freshwater lake surrounding it, the Vanuatu Digest reported yesterday. The presence of water means that any eruption could potentially be more explosive. 

People from the south of the island have been evacuated from their villages and are now sheltering in school and church buildings in villages in the north and east of the island. Some 36 schools have also been closed on the island.

The most pressing need now with the significant number of arrivals is food and water, the Penama Province’s Assistant Secretary General Ure noted yesterday, as reported by the Vanuatu Digest.

The Vanuatu Government announced today it has released Vt 200 million for the immediate needs of the dislocated people of Ambae.

They have great need of shelter, food and water and the Government says the Vt 200 million will go towards supplying the evacuees’ basic needs.

The National Disaster Management Office and the Vanuatu Police made a final check that all inhabitants have been removed from the danger areas, the paper reported today.

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD) maintains Aoba's Volcano Alert Level at 4 (of 5).

"This [Level 4] means that the volcano is in a moderate eruption state," the VMGD said in a Bulletin N°11 for Ambae volcano issued September 23, 2017.

"At this Alert Level, the volcanic activity is likely to continue to increase or decrease to its normal level of unrest at any time," it added.

The danger is in the Red, Grey, Orange and White dotted Zones, marked on the map below:

Aoba (Ambae) volcano hazards map

For a larger version, including volcanic hazards and what do to in case of eruption, click here.

With this situation, flying rocks and volcanic gas will affect the Red Zone which is about 6.5 km (4 miles) radius from Manaro Voui.

Villages located in the Grey and Orange Zone will expect unusual volcanic hazards and ash falls can be expected around the island especially in villages exposed to prevailing trade winds direction, White Zone dotted. Acid rain may also be expected in that zone. Acid rain cause foliage fumigation hence damage garden crops.

Geological summary

Aoba, also known as Ambae, is a massive 2 500 km3 (600 mi3) basaltic shield volcano that is the most voluminous volcano of the New Hebrides archipelago. A pronounced NE-SW-trending rift zone dotted with scoria cones gives the 16 x 38 km (10 x 23.6 miles) island an elongated form.

A broad pyroclastic cone containing three crater lakes is located at the summit of the Hawaiian-style shield volcano within the youngest of at least two nested calderas, the largest of which is 6 km (3.7 miles) in diameter. Post-caldera explosive eruptions formed the summit craters of Lake Voui (also spelled Vui) and Lake Manaro Ngoru about 360 years ago. A tuff cone was constructed within Lake Voui about 60 years later.

The latest known flank eruption, about 300 years ago, destroyed the population of the Nduindui area near the western coast. (GVP)

Featured image: Activity at the Aoba (Ambae) volcano on September 25, 2017. Credit: Haos Blong Volkeno

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