Sickness spreads among Ambae villagers as volcano remains active

Ash fall from the Monaro volcano continues to rain causing sickness and panic amongst villagers on Ambae island in Vanuatu.

More than 11,000 villagers were repatriated back to their villages after the volcano stabilized and a state of emergency was lifted fortnight ago.

According to the Vanuatu Daily Post, the volcanic ash was now showering the north side of the island spoiling cabbages, taro and water as the volcanic alert dropped to level 3.

Despite the size of the ash and fear among the people, the Vanuatu Meteorological and Geo-Hazards Managing Director Esline Garaebiti said that the alert level remained the same.

Garaebiti said that Ambae villagers had to wash vegetables thoroughly, and at the same time they needed to protect their noses from the smell of volcanic gases.

Bice, a pastor based in north Ambae, said that living with an active volcano continuously spewing out ash was detrimental for people's health and basic survival.

Bice said that the acidic rain and sulphur caused the islanders discomfort in smell and body itches daily, since they returned to their homes.

He made a plea for breathing masks, sunglasses and hats to the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO).

Bice said that there was an outbreak of cough and flu predominantly affecting the children on the island.

Presley Tari, a NDMO officer, said that Ambae villagers were waiting for a shipment of food and water expected on the island soon.

The Monaro volcano, Vanuatu's largest, has been raining rock and ash on villages since September.

The last significant eruption on the Ambae island happened in 2005.

Vanuatu lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.


Photo source NDMO Vanuatu