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Thousands flee as Vanuatu volcano threatens to blow

DANGER: Thousands flee their homes as Vanuatu volcano threatens to erupt

A VOLCANO that’s threatening to blow has forced more than 7,000 people to flee their homes by Wednesday (Sep 27) on an island in the Pacific nation of Vanuatu.

Vanuatu is about one-quarter of the way from Australia to Hawaii. It’s made up of 80 islands, about 65 of which are inhabited, and is home to around 280,000 people.

According to AP News, authorities have declared an emergency on Ambae island, where activity at the Manaro volcano has increased recently, raising fears of a major eruption.

About 10,000 people live on the island, and villagers close to the volcano have been moved to schools and community halls on the island’s less vulnerable eastern and western region.

New Zealand’s military flew over the volcano on Tuesday (Sep 26), and said they noticed huge columns of smoke, ash and volcanic rocks billowing from the crater. Group Captain Nick Olney said they had already planned the aerial survey in an Orion aircraft before the recent activity, but were happy to help provide Vanuatu authorities with images and information.

He said the military “always stands ready to support our Pacific neighbors, especially in times like this.”

Vanuatu’s Meteorology and Geohazards Department said in an alert that villagers within 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) of the volcano face the biggest risk from airborne rocks and volcanic gas. The department warned that acid rain could damage crops across a broader area.

This also comes after authorities in Bali warned of a potentially imminent eruption of its highest volcano on Mount Agung, forcing more than 75,000 people from their homes.

The nation is considered one of the world’s most prone to natural disasters, with a half-dozen active volcanoes as well as regular cyclones and earthquakes. It sits on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire,”, a horseshoe shaped area around the edges of the Pacific Ocean, from Australia to the Andes, where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

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