Watch: Vanuatu volcano spews smoke, ash and lava as eruption threatens

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1 NEWS | Associated Press

A New Zealand Air Force Orion has flown over Vanuatu's Monaro volcano, reporting that plumes of smoke, ash and volcanic rock are spewing from it ahead of a likely eruption.

The New Zealand Defence Force crew said the volcano on Ambae Island is the most active they've seen in some time.

"Ambae was very active. There were ash clouds, the crater was erupting, [there were] plumes, lavas, smoke ash," Group Captain Nick Olney told Australia's ABC.

He told The Associated Press they had already planned the aerial survey before the recent activity, but were happy to help provide Vanuatu authorities with images and information.

The volcano has forced more than 7,000 people to flee their homes, with authorities declaring an emergency on Ambae island, where activity at the  volcano has increased recently, raising fears of a major eruption. 

About 10,000 people live on the island, and villagers close to the volcano have been moved to schools and community halls on the island's less vulnerable eastern and western regions.

For those displaced villagers, it's now a waiting game to see whether the volcano erupts or returns to normal activity that's not a threat to them.

Shadrack Welegtabit, the director of Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office, said a ship had arrived on Wednesday carrying food, water and other essential supplies. He said a second ship was due to arrive on Friday.

Vanuatu's Meteorology and Geohazards Department said in an alert that villagers within 6.5 kilometres of the volcano face the biggest risk from airborne rocks and volcanic gas. 

The department warned that acid rain could damage crops across a broader area.

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