Ash, sand sour crops on Vanuatu Island

News and Press Release
Originally published
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai'i

By Len Garae

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 12) -- A fine mixture of ash and sand fell for the first time in the North Eastern Ambae Region of Lolovinue District last night.

A mother of two, Shannon Vuvu, noticed the thin, shiny layer of ash and sand on the fresh island cabbage, which she was going to use to wrap the family 'simboro' in.

She said she put the entire bundle aside and went outside the kitchen to check the leaves of flowers round the house.

"They also had the same substance on them and when I checked our clean plates on an open bed outside the house, I noticed the same substance on them and I put the plates aside and telephoned Saratamata to let them know about my discovery but no one answered the phone", she said.

She suspected it was carried by the wind, as there was no rain yesterday night. Another woman by the name of Selina who confirmed the ash fall said she saw the same substance many years ago in her youth following a major volcanic eruption of the two volcanoes in Ambrym.

The Daily Post however, could not get any feedback from the south as the people had all moved to the safe zone of Longana in the East.

A woman called Therese at the Lolopuepue Catholic Mission of North Ambae denied seeing any ash fall but that it had rained in the mountain and a torrent of "black" water rushed down the Waimaeto creek to the sea. She suspected the black colour of the water to be as a result of ash fall further up in land.

Asked if she had heard any noise she replied no but that the descending smoke from the eruption was so big two days ago it almost reached the mission on the coast.

There was no response from the East or West of Ambae as mostpeople were suspected to be in church at time of our call yesterday.

The biggest danger facing people in Ambae is that the island has no rivers or streams and most households have built themselves wells or tanks to collect rainwater. Everyone is asked to seal the top of their wells and remove all connections from the roof that carry water into the wells.

One thing is for sure and that is that the Manaro Volcano is erupting because people who are over 50 years old can see the smoke of the volcano for the first time trailing up into the clear sky from their villages.

It can also be seen clearly above the green vegetation behind the Saratamata on the coast.

Even while passing over Ambrym, passengers in a plane can see the smoke standing above the rain clouds like a giant seahorse.

Despite its constant activity, regular reports released by scientists based at Saratamata confirm it has not increased the emergency alert to Level 3.