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Evacuations planned in Vanuatu as Gaua activity steps up 19 April 2010

Posted by admin in activity reports, eruptions, Gaua, Pacific, Vanuatu.
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Gaua volcano, Vanuatu, 12 April 2010 (NASA Terra MODIS image)
Gaua volcano, Vanuatu: a MODIS image from the NASA Terra satellite, 12 April 2010 (source: NASA Earth Observatory, 15 April 2010).

Gaua volcano in northern Vanuatu has been showing signs of increased activity for some months: in November 2009 there were evacuations of villagers from Gaua island because of ashfall and gas emissions. During January 2010 ash emissions became denser and darker, and gas emissions increased. Strombolian activity and explosions were reported at the end of January. From late March into April ash plumes were reported daily, reaching altitudes of up to 3 km, and reports of explosions, ash fall and the ejection of volcanic bombs continued.

Gaua volcano, Vanuatu, 14 February 2010 (NASA EO-1 ALI image)
The Mount Garet cone of Gaua volcano erupting on 14 February 2010, captured by the Advanced Land Imager aboard NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite. The crescent-shaped body of water is Lake Letas, which partially fills the Gaua caldera (source: NASA Earth Observatory, 18 February 2010).

Today news sources are reporting that extensive evacuations are being planned, involving the transfer of about 2700 people from Gaua or Santa Maria Island to a relocation centre on nearby Vanualava Island. According to Peter Korisa of the Vanuatu Government emergencies office the volcano’s activity is not stable, but increasing: ‘Last year it was just some explosions and some ash falling but at the moment the activity is becoming more interesting’. The evacuation is not yet being carried out, but the necessary plans have been made. At the moment, Korisa says, ‘the situation doesn’t warrant any evacuation’, but the authorities are ready to act should such a step prove necessary.

The alert level for Gaua remains at its habitual level 2, according to the Vanuatu Geohazards Observatory.

UPDATE 20 April 2010. A reader has correctly pointed out that the previous headline for this post, ‘Evacuations in Vanuatu as Gaua activity steps up’, gave the impression that the evacuations are already under way. This is not the case, the evacuations are only at the planning stage, and I have changed the headline to reflect the situation accurately. Thanks, TJ, for the correction.

For all our coverage of Gaua: Gaua « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Vanuatu prepares evacuation from rumbling volcano – AFP, 19 April 2010
Vanuatu prepares evacuation amid threats of Gaua volcano – Radio New Zealand International, 19 April 2010

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Gaua – summary information for Gaua (0507-02=)
Vanuatu volcanoes and volcanics – information from the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory

The Volcanism Blog