Published On: Tue, Apr 17th, 2018

Ambae volcano ERUPTION: Widespread HORROR as volcanic ash blankets evacuating masses | World | News

A state of emergency has been declared on Vanuatu’s Ambae island, as it becomes uninhabitable due to the continuing volcanic eruption of the Ambae volcano.

The active volcano has been spewing out ash and gases since mid-March and ash fall has fallen on residential and agricultural regions of the small island, contaminating water supplies and creating a hazard for people living on the island.

The government has admitted families on Ambae are struggling to live due to the heavy volcanic ash fall, as it has destroyed food sources and other vegetation.

The ash fall has affected more than 1000 households in west and south Ambae and spread through the north and eastern part of the island, due to wind changes.

A significant sulfur dioxide gas emission was detected in the very early hours of April 6 – it was the largest sulfur dioxide emission of any eruption since the 2015 eruption at Calbuco in Chile.

Sulfur dioxide is one of the major volatile gases that volcanoes emit – if it is injected into the stratosphere it can create the potential for cooling of the lower atmosphere and if its sticks closer to the ground it can lead to acid rain.

Last year, major eruptions from the Ambae volcano prompted an island-wide evacuation of all 11,000 residents of Ambae.

They returned home earlier this year, only for volcanic activity to begin again last month.

Ambae volcano ERUPTION:Google Maps

Ambae volcano ERUPTION: A state of emergency has been declared on Ambae island

Jesse Benjamin, the Ministry of Climate Change and Natural Disaster’s director general, told Radio New Zealand: “Vegetation is affected, their water has been contaminated and people are struggling to get food from the garden because there’s been heavy ash fall on almost every part of Ambae.”

Photos from Ambae show villages and forest covered in a heavy layer of ash, food gardens destroyed and water sources polluted.

The extent of the ash fall has raised concerns about the health risk and there have been reports of people dying.

However the PENAMA Health Authorities has confirmed there have been no deaths directly related to the ash fall on Ambae, the Vanuatu Daily Post has reported.

But residents are experiencing other health problems associated with the ash fall, such as eye irritations, influenza type illness and other respiratory issues.

A priest has told Radio New Zealand conditions are worsening as people become desperate for food supplies and disease starts to spread.

Father William Bice is an anglican priest in the north of the island and he said a 30cm thick layer of ash has blanketed everything – killing all plant life and contaminating water.

He said: “In my opinion I think if we live from now up until next week without any assistance from the government I think a lot of people will starve and a lot of people will die because of no food.

“At the moment we have an outbreak of flu and sore throat because of the smell of the volcano.”

Mr Benjamin said people will be evacuated from the severely affected communities first.

A patrol boat loaded with police and paramilitary personnel left Port Vila for the island on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the National Disaster Office said.

Once they arrived, the evacuation would get underway.

It is likely the residents will be evacuated to the nearby islands of Maemo and Pentecost and the government is meeting with chiefs from the island to discuss the possibility of acquiring land for resettlement.

Vanuatu’s Council of Ministers has now authorised the government to secure permanent resettlement for Ambae’s 11,000 people by the end of May.

The Ambae volcano is undergoing a level three eruption – the mid-point in a five-level scale.

Vanuatu has a population of about 280,000 spread over 65 inherited islands and is regarded as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

The group of islands sit on the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean and is vulnerable to strong earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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