Rumbling Vanuatu volcano drives thousands to island's coast for mass evacuation

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Thousands of people are camped along the coast on a Vanuatu island tonight, nervously watching a rumbling volcano.

Thousands of people are camped out on the coastlines of a Vanuatu Island as fears its volcano will erupt.
Source: 1 NEWS

Fears Monaro Volcano will erupt soon are forcing the government to evacuate Ambae island's entire population.

Planes and boats of all shapes and sizes are being organised to remove 11,000 people from Ambae within a week.

But many aren't waiting around for the government to finalise plans.

"A lot of the response is spontaneous. People aren't waiting to be told what to do. They're moving on their own. Local ship owners are very much on the front foot about this," said Dan McGarry of the Vanuatu Daily Post.

A number of ships have mobilised and Air Vanuatu has laid on extra flights to the island which is more than 250 kilometres from the capital, Port Vila.

Evacuating the entire island is a logistical nightmare. Many live in areas where there's no vehicle access.

"The planning, however, and the staging that's going to be required to support a large population is quite significant. We are not seeing a lot of formal or official action just yet," Mr McGarry said.

1 NEWS visited Ambae in 2005 when it last erupted and nearly 5000 people in the volcano's line of fire were evacuated to schools around the coastline.

During the last eruption water was contaminated and food crops destroyed.

Today those waiting to be evacuated off the island face the same problem.

New Zealand is offering assistance if needed and is sending two volcanologists to help assess the situation.

"The volcano team in Vanuatu is stressed and overworked at the moment. They've got three volcanos that are active or reawakening or eruptions and they have asked via MFAT for assistance," said Brad Scott, volcanologist.

While Monaro is unpredictable, data analysis will reveal more.

"From what I've seen so far, although I am a little bit remote, it does appear that this eruption is pretty similar to the 2005 eruption the way it's playing out at the moment," Mr Scott said.

And that's what the people of Ambae are hoping for - more smoke than fire.

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