Vanuatu: Ambae Volcano Eruption 2018 Emergency Plan of Action Final Report n° MDRVU006


A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

In October 2017, the entire population (approximately 11,000 people) of Ambae, an island in the north of the Vanuatu archipelago, were temporarily evacuated due to increased volcanic activity. At that time, Vanuatu Red Cross launched a DREF emergency response which was successful in reaching all displaced people. Assistance was provided in the form of distribution of non-food items (NFI), evacuation camp support, beneficiary registration and community awareness campaigns. The population returned to their island on the 22 October 2017 after three weeks living in evacuation centres and camps. The volcano’s activity was then downgraded to level 2.

On the 18 March 2018, the volcano alert level was raised again to level 3 and populations in West and South Ambae reported experiencing heavy ash fall which caused some local-style structures to collapse, contaminated water sources and destroyed food gardens. The government has since re-evacuated 606 people from the South of Ambae and moved them to evacuation centres in East Ambae, others have evacuated voluntarily from the island. The NDMO has registered a total of 696 displaced people since 18 March.

Increased ash fall in April saw houses, other structures and trees collapse under the weight of the ash. Large fallen trees blocked road access to some communities in the North, while dangerous landslides believed to be linked to the heavy deposits of ashfall destroyed an entire village.
On the 12 April, the Council of Ministers declared a State of Emergency (SOE) for the entire island of Ambae for a period of 3 months. The SOE also came with indication of the plan by the National government to assist with voluntary evacuations up until 30 April. After this, they planned for mandatory evacuations over a 2-week period until 15 May.

Following this initial decision, resistance from the provincial government and a reduction in the severity of the effects of the volcano prompted the government to revise their decision to allow for voluntary evacuation rather than mandatory.

However, in mid-July the volcano’s activity increased again and on the 21 July, the level was again increased to level 3.

This prompted the government to order the compulsory evacuation of the entire island. During the first week of August, the people of Ambae were either evacuated to nearby Maewo island by the government or chose to make their own way to the island of Santo. Approximately 2,600 evacuees relocated to Maewo and 6,500 to Santo.