Vanuatu: Ambae Volcano Eruption Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) n° MDRVU005 DREF Operation Update n° 2

Situation Report
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Description of the disaster

On 23 September 2017, the Vanuatu Meteorology & Geo-hazards Department (VMGD) increased the alert level for Monaro volcano on Ambae island, Penama province to Level 4: a moderate eruption state. A new volcanic cone had formed within one of the two crater lakes (Manaro Vui). This alert level indicates that flying rocks and volcanic gas will affect the Red Zone – a 6.5 km radius around the volcano crater. Villages located further from the volcano’s crater can expect volcanic hazards, including explosions and ash rain. There is also an increased likelihood that ash falls around the island, especially in villages exposed to the prevailing trade winds direction. As a result of the volcano’s increased activities, many of the island’s water sources have been contaminated through ash fall and acid rain. Acid rain has caused damage to food crops and contributed to food and livelihood insecurity for people living on the island. At this level of activity, the VMGD had advised that the volcano’s activity may increase or decrease at any time without warning.

South, West and North West Ambae experienced ash rain and smoke as a result of the increased volcano activities. An estimated 5,500 people were initially affected, however loud explosions and further ash rain was experienced throughout the whole island and a decision was made for mass evacuation to nearby islands Maewo, Pentecost (Penama Province) and Santo (Sanma Province). This then meant that the whole island population of approximately 11,000 people (based on the 2009 Census data) was affected.

On the 22 November the VMGD had advised that the volcano’s activities have decreased and reduced the alert level to Level 3. The government of Vanuatu has declared the state of emergency and announced the repatriation of the 11,000 people back to Ambae Island. The repatriation took place from 22 to 27 November 2017 for the whole population to move and settle back on the island.

On the 7 December, the VMGD had advised the volcano alert was reduced to Level 2, remaining up to the time of reporting.