On 23 September 2017, the Vanuatu Meteorology & GeoHazards Department (VMGD) increased the activity level for Monaro volcano on Ambae island, Penama province to Level 4: a moderate eruption state. With this situation, flying rocks and volcanic gas will affect the Red Zone which is about 6.5km radius around the volcano's crater. Villages located further from the volcano's centre can expect unusual volcanic hazards and ash falls around the island especially in villages exposed to prevailing trade winds direction. Acid rain may also be expected which may damage garden crops. VMGD has advised that the activity may increase, or decrease, at any time without warning. Evacuations have begun for people living in high risk areas. The Vanuatu government has requested that partner agencies be ready to support the response in the coming days.
The provincial government authorities are currently evacuating people in high-risk areas – as of 24 September, 3,000 people had been moved to safer areas on the island. As of 25 September evening, Penama provincial authorities had a record of approximately 6,800 people in evacuation centres on Ambae with an additional 900 people who have yet to be evacuated. Host communities and provincial authorities are currently supporting evacuee needs. The Provincial Disaster Committee is currently leading the response on the ground. The National Disaster Management Office advises that further evacuations are likely to occur if the situation escalates. (IFRC, 26 Sep 2017)
The volcanic eruption at Ambae is continuing but remains stable and confined to Lake Voui. Further scientific analyses confirm that there is currently no evidence of escalation of the activity. As a consequence, the Volcanic Alert Level is lowered to Level 3 from Level 4. The volcanic eruption is likely to continue in a steady state. Danger is restricted to the danger zone that extends 3 km from the active vent in Lake Voui. (Vanuatu Meteorology & GeoHazards Department, 6 Oct 2017)
As of 18 October, the government said a state of emergency would be in place at least until 24 October. (Govt. Vanuatu, 18 Oct 2017)
The government has decided to repatriate 11,000 evacuees from Ambae. The NDMO is preparing a logistics plan for the return, which will be handled by the government. In the meantime, the state of emergency will be extended. (Govt. Vanuatu, 20 Oct 2017)