Friday, 27 July 2018

Increase in eruptive activity leads to second evacuation of Ambae Island.

The government of Vanuatu has ordered a second evacuation of the island of Ambae, following an increase in activity on the Manaro Volcano. The volcano began erupting in September last year, prompting authorities to order the first ever complete evacuation of the island's 11 000 inhabitants. Continuing activity led to speculation that the population might need to be permanently rehoused in March, but since then the level of activity has fallen off and people had begun to return. However in the past week the volcano has become much more active again, with ash columns up to 2.5 km high and ash falls across much of the island, and the authorities have ordered a second evacuation.

Drifts of volcanic ash on the island of Ambae in Vanuatu this week. EPA.

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.

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