The entire 11 000 population of Ambae Island in Vanuatu (also known as Aoba, and formerly called Leper's Island) has been evacuated this week after the Manaro Voui volcano on the island began erupting violently on Saturday 23 September 2017. The volcano has been active for some weeks, but now appears to have entered a more dangerous phase, prompting the first evacuations on the island since 2005. The initial evacuations were ordered after a large ash column appeared over the 1496 shield volcano, with about 6000 people ordered to evacuate areas close to the volcano. However following a flight over the volcano by the New Zealand Defence Force revealed a large lava fountain emerging from a new cinder cone emerging from the lake in the crater the decision was taken to completely evacuate the island, the first time such a measure has been taken.
Ash column over a new cinder cone emerging from the lake in the crater of the Manaro Voui volcano on Ambae Island, Vanuatu, on 23 September 2017.
Vanuatu is located on the southwestern fringe of the Pacific Plate, close to its boundary with the Australian Plate, which is being subducted along the New Hebrides Trench, to the west of the islands. The subducting Australian Plate passes under the islands of Vanuatu as it sinks into the Earth, causing Earthquakes as the plates stick together then break apart as the pressure builds up. As the plate sinks further it is partially melted by the heat of the Earth's interior. Some of the melted material then rises through the overlying Pacific Plate, fuelling the volcanoes of Vanuatu.
The approximate location of Mount Ambae. Google Maps.
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