NZ steps up assistance to Vanuatu as 11,000 are evacuated from threat of erupting volcano

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The New Zealand Goverment is stepping up assistance to Vanuatu as 11,000 people are evacuated of Ambae island due to threat from a volcanic eruption.

A team of four disaster relief experts were sent early this morning to help with logistics and environmental health.

Emergency relief supplies and $100,000 are also available to support the response effort on the ground.

Ten local ships have been helping with the government ordered evacuation of 11,000 people from Ambae island about 250km from Port Vila.

From the air experts are tracking the Monaro volcano's activity.

"The volcanic cone has grown, there's four active vents... with what we call lava explosions through them, and lava flow is feed out to the east side of the island... and the lake as consequences," says GNS volcanologist, Brad Scott.

He says what they are seeing is different from past eruptions.

"Usually none of the historic ones have developed through to lava eruptions or lava flows, so this puts us in slightly new territory."

The volcano alert is at level four, the second highest level possible, and will be reassessed shortly.

It could take up to a week to evacuate Ambae, sending residents to four different islands. 

"It's been a challenge, also we're doing our very best to organise ourselves," says disaster response volunteer, Jacobson Tari.

Santo Island alone is expecting thousands of evacuees.

"So far, so good. Everyone is fed and has shelter, but the national disaster management is not kicking in yet," says Santo Ambae Disaster Support Community's Renata Netef. 

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