8 Dec 2005

Vanuatu volcano activity weakens

4:34 pm on 8 December 2005

Scientists in Vanuatu monitoring Mount Monaro volcano, which has been emitting ash and gas for more than a week on the island of Ambae, have reported activity has lessened over the last 24 hours.

The director of the Disaster Management Centre, Job Esau, says more than 2,000 people are living in emergency accommodation although hundreds are refusing to leave their settlements near the volcano.

Scientists say seismic activity is less and gas emissions have reduced by 25 percent, but the level of alert remains the same, because the volcanic cone is increasing which could cause more dry ash to fall.

Since the volcanic explosion last week, ash has fallen on western parts of Ambae at a rate of 2,000 tonnes a day and should that become worse, Mr Esau says Red Cross are standing by with 2,000 respiratory masks for the elderly and children.

Mr Esau says the most pressing challenge is finding enough water for the evacuees.