Vanuatu volcano: Full evacuation of Ambae island ordered as Manaro threat increases

Vanuatu volcano: Full evacuation of Ambae island ordered as Manaro threat increases

Vanuatu volcano: Full evacuation of Ambae island ordered as Manaro threat increases

Updated 29 September 2017, 10:40 AEST

Fears of an imminent volcanic eruption prompt the Vanuatu Government to order the full-scale evacuation of Ambae island.

Fears of an imminent volcanic eruption have prompted the Vanuatu Government to order the full-scale evacuation of Ambae island.

Key points:

  • Manaro is at the second highest level in Vanuatu's volcanic alert system
  • About 10,000 people live on Ambae Island
  • Australia begins delivering aid to affected people

Around 8,000 people have already left their homes and headed to evacuation centres in coastal areas.

Vanuatu's Prime Minister Charlot Salwai announced the compulsory evacuation of the entire island, with the aim to have it completed by Friday next week.

The alert level for the Ambae's Manaro volcano was raised to four last Saturday, the second highest level in Vanuatu's alert system, indicating a "moderate" eruption.

Mr Salwai said the aim was to move everyone to neighbouring islands by next Friday.

"It seems that there's no improvement in the situation of the volcano on Ambae," he said.

"It's still presently a high risk so that's the reason the Council of Ministers decided to move all people from the island of Ambae."

He said travel restrictions would be imposed but for now Air Vanuatu said flights to the island were continuing.

Amon Gwero is among the 8,000 people who have already fled their homes to evacuation centres on the coast and he welcomes the move.

"The bottom line is safety and if we can move people out to be safe I think that's what it's all about," he said.

Australia had responded to a request for assistance and was helping fund supplies like food, water and shelter, Australia's High Commission in Vanuatu said.

The High Commission said a shipment of aid had also been sent from the capital Port Vila.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) sent an aircraft over the island earlier this week and said the volcano was the "most active they've seen in some time".

The volcano has been active since 2005, but the recent increase in activity raised fears of a much bigger eruption.

About 10,000 people live on Ambae island.

Vanuatu is considered one of the world's most prone countries to natural disasters, with half a dozen active volcanoes, as well as regular cyclones and earthquakes.