Vanuatu's volcano evacuation gathers pace

An elderly man is evacuated from Vanuatu's Ambae island, where the Manaro Voui volcano is threatening a major eruption. (Dan McGarry, Vanuatu Daily Post, AFP)
An elderly man is evacuated from Vanuatu's Ambae island, where the Manaro Voui volcano is threatening a major eruption. (Dan McGarry, Vanuatu Daily Post, AFP)

Sydney - The mass evacuation of a volcano-threatened Vanuatu island is running ahead of schedule as a ramshackle armada of civilian boats ferries people to safety, officials said on Monday.

The entire 11 000 population of Ambae, in the north of the Pacific archipelago, has been ordered to leave after the Manaro Voui volcano rumbled to life and rained rock and ash on villages last week.

The evacuation to nearby islands was scheduled for completion by this Friday but the Red Cross said it was likely to wrap up on Wednesday.

It said villagers were exiting the island on a range of locally-commissioned boats - from barges carrying hundreds of people to smaller ferries shipping dozens at a time.

"You have got a huge range of boats that are transferring 11 000 people from Ambae to the three surrounding islands. For a country this size it is a very big operation," Red Cross spokesperson Joe Cropp said.

"It was orderly. People realised that they need to leave, there is a lot of patience among the community."

Evacuation centres

Most of the island's residents have been sheltering in evacuation centres since the volcano first sent up a plume of steam and ash about a week ago.

They are leaving from three coastal locations and the point on Ambae's western edge had already completed its evacuation on Monday.

The Red Cross is delivering water to the island after ash from the volcano contaminated fresh supplies.

While an orderly evacuation was still a priority for those remaining, attention was now turning to the strained resources at the islands to which people were being relocated, Cropp said.

The relocation facilities on surrounding islands are "starting to handle" the situation, "but we need to step up quickly, we need to get the resources in to provide the shelter, water, food and sanitation that people need", he added.

An Australian naval ship is expected to arrive on Wednesday, while New Zealand has sent a Hercules C-130 to airlift supplies into the area.

Vanuatu lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

News24 (@News24) | Twitter

The latest Tweets from News24 (@News24). News24 is Southern Africa and Africa's premier online news resource reaching over 2.3 million local users each month. South Africa

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
As a child or as an adult, have you ever been a victim of bullying?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, at school
55% - 3040 votes
Yes, at work
17% - 939 votes
No, I've never experienced this
27% - 1509 votes
Vote
USD/ZAR
14.32
(+0.1)
GBP/ZAR
19.94
(-0.0)
EUR/ZAR
17.22
(+0.0)
AUD/ZAR
11.04
(-0.1)
JPY/ZAR
0.13
(+0.1)
Gold
1,784.41
(+0.3)
Silver
26.01
(+0.7)
Platinum
1,194.29
(+0.4)
Brent Crude
66.57
(-0.7)
Palladium
2,782.49
(+0.7)
All Share
66,836
(0.0)
Top 40
61,117
(0.0)
Financial 15
12,162
(0.0)
Industrial 25
86,452
(0.0)
Resource 10
68,586
(0.0)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo