Vanuatu Volcanic Eruption Situation Report 1
The geohazards team of the Department of Geology, Mines and Water Resources of Vanuatu confirmed continuing volcanic activity of Ambrym Volcano in Vanuatu. Beginning December 2008, there has been increased emission of volcanic gases particularly sulfur oxide causing acid rain over surrounding areas. Acid rain and ash fall threaten water safety as well as crops and vegetation. More than 9 000 people from 40 villages in Ambrym have been affected.
In 1951, eruption of Ambrym Volcano caused the evacuation of the population to nearby islands. It also destroyed the Lonwolwol Hospital at Dip Point in 1913.
Damage to Infrastructure
There were no reported damages to infrastructure as of 6 April 2009.
Acid rain threatens safe water and food supply of residents in nearby areas. There have been no casualties and damages to hospitals and health facilities.
Identified needs include provision, allocation and deployment of health and medical supplies to affected communities. People with special needs such as persons with disabilities, pregnant women, mental health patients, and the elderly will be taken cared of. Temporary shelters might be needed in case there is evacuation ordered by the government.
The government has identified priorities for action. Short term priorities included protecting lives and reducing risks, assessment of water supply and quality, strengthening food programmes, disaster preparedness and response planning, and the establishment of a Provincial Disaster Risk Management Committee at Malampa Province consisting of different government agencies and people's organizations.
Mid-term priorities focus on monitoring and assessment of the situation in nearby islands such as Gaua, Ambae, Lopeyi, South Malekula, Epi, and Paama. Long term priorities include the use of scientific and technical information on Ambrym volcanic risk in decision making and development project planning.
In response to initial assessment reports, the government has done the following:
- Deployment of a scientific monitoring and technical assessment and awareness team
- Continued monitoring and coordination with international experts
- Emergency water re-supply operation
- Food aid programme for 2 months
- Ambrym volcano preparedness and evacuation planning
- Water bore hole and underground water projects installation
Malampa Province activated the Malampa Disaster Committee to coordinate needs and responses. Rapid Assessment Teams have been deployed in 3 April 2009. Food and water supply has been ensured. Continuous meetings and updates between the National Disaster Committee, responding agencies and health partners have been done regularly.
Lack of expertise, volcano and earthquake monitoring equipment, and poor roads and infrastructure are major challenges to the emergency response.
Community leaders also contributed to monitoring, awareness and information dissemination. High risk villages were advised to move out voluntarily. People have been encouraged to empty their water tanks and wells and use underground water sources.
The Ministry of Health continued to coordinate with the National Disaster Committee, other government agencies, and local and international health partners to assess the situation and provide timely and appropriate response.
The World Health Organization, UNICEF and UN-OCHA have been involved in assessment, response and coordination meetings with government agencies. WHO will continue to provide technical support and assistance to the Ministry of Health of Vanuatu.
Ambrym Crisis Situation Report
National Disaster Council
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Republic of Vanuatu
For further information please contact:
Dr Bernard Fabre-Teste
Tel: (+676) 23-217
Fax: (+676) 23-928
Dr. Ken Chen
WHO South Pacific
Tel: (+679) 3-304600
Fax: (+679) 330-0462 and 331-1530
WHO South Pacific
Tel: (+679) 3234102
Fax: (+679) 3234166
WHO Regional Office
Dr Arturo Pesigan
Tel: (632) 528 9810
Fax: (632) 528 9072