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SHAKE AND BLOW
Bali volcano evacuees outside red zone fearful to return home
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Oct 2, 2017


Vanuatu volcano eruption threat recedes: scientists
Wellington (AFP) Oct 3, 2017 - A Vanuatu volcano that sparked the evacuation of an entire island appeared to be stabilising, scientists said Tuesday, although aid workers said it was too early for villagers to return home.

All 11,000 people who live on Ambae, in the north of the Pacific archipelago, were ordered to leave after the Manaro Voui volcano rumbled to life and rained rock and ash on villages last week.

Fearing a major eruption, officials mobilised a rag-tag armada of civilian vessels to ferry residents to safety on other islands in what has been described as a "Dunkirk" style operation.

Vanuatu's official Geohazards Observatory said the threat had eased, although it maintained the volcano's status as level four, the second-highest rating.

It said the most recent observations from flyovers and seismic stations indicated the seismic activity was now limited to a lake in the volcano's crater.

"As the activity is now more settled and focused only on the new island in Lake Voui, the possibility of a large eruption affecting the whole island is now looking less likely," it said.

Red Cross spokesman Joe Cropp said the report of reduced seismic activity was "reassuring" but there were still thousands of people in emergency accommodation.

Locals can only return to Ambae when the government downgrades the threat to level three, which could take months, he said.

"We're still holding with the original plan of providing support to people for the next two weeks, then looking forward to the indefinite future," Cropp told AFP from the capital Port Vila.

"We have to plan ahead and be prepared... because we're not quite sure which way the volcano is going."

He said most of Ambae's population had now been relocated to three neighbouring islands, where they were sheltering in schools, churches and sporting grounds.

The evacuation succeeded in removing Ambae's population more than two days before the government target of Friday, Cropp added.

"You'd see people boarding a whole range of vessels," he said.

"I think the largest could take about 1,000 people and I also saw small water-taxi speedboats taking 20-30 people.

"For a really complicated evacuation of 11,000 people from a remote island it was quite impressive."

It comes as international relief efforts stepped up with the arrival of two Hercules aircraft carrying supplies, one from Australia and the other from New Zealand.

An Australian navy vessel with emergency specialists and food supplies is expected to arrive on Wednesday.

Thousands of residents who fled a rumbling volcano on the island of Bali are refusing to leave evacuation centres after being told to return to their homes outside of the immediate danger zone.

Officials announced the highest possible alert level for Mount Agung, about 75 kilometres (47 miles) from the resort hub of Kuta, on September 22, telling people not to venture within nine to 12 kilometres of the summit.

Some 144,000 people fled their homes following the warning, including about 75,000 who were not in immediate danger, according to officials.

The government has since urged evacuees from outside the red zone to return home, but many are refusing to go.

"Honestly I don't have the courage to go home right now because my children are still young, our house is located in a narrow alley, I don't know if we will have enough time to evacuate [if the volcano erupts]," mother Cecilia Eka Setyarini Utami, who fled to an evacuation centre in Denpasar, told AFP.

Kadek Kanda, the coordinator of an evacuation centre in Bali's capital Denpasar, said his shelter was so full he had stopped accepting evacuees.

"Some people whose houses are not within the danger zone have started to return home this morning, but for those who decided to stay, we don't have the heart to tell them to go home."

Indonesia's Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said the number of volcanic tremors was still high -- 222 between midnight and 6am Monday -- but the situation was stable.

"You have acceleration prior to September 22. At that moment we increased the alert level, but thereafter the number of seismicity is almost the same day by day," said Devy Kamil, a senior official at the centre, told AFP.

White steam clouds -- which contain sulphurous fumes -- have been observed rising 50 to 200 metres above the summit.

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

In 2010, Mount Merapi on the island of Java erupted after rumbling since 2006, while Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island -- which is currently also on the highest alert level -- has been active since 2013.

Volcanologists cannot predict when an eruption may occur, but Kamil said the risk had not decreased.

Mount Agung last erupted in 1963, killing nearly 1,600 people.

SHAKE AND BLOW
Australia sends naval support to Vanuatu's volcano island
Sydney (AFP) Oct 1, 2017
Australia has sent a naval ship to help evacuate thousands of people from Vanuatu's Ambae island, where a volcano is threatening a major eruption. The Vanuatu government announced last week that all 11,000 residents on Ambae - in the north of the Pacific archipelago - would be moved, after the Manaro Voui volcano rumbled to life and rained rock and ash on villages. The landing ship HMA ... read more

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