30 Nov 2009

NZ scientist monitoring volcano in Vanuatu says eruptions not life threatening

6:04 am on 30 November 2009

A New Zealand scientist monitoring a volcano that's forced the relocation of more than 350 people in Vanuatu says its eruptions are not life-threatening.

The Vanuatu government asked for assistance from New Zealand to monitor Mt Garet on the island of Gaua because its own geohazards team is inadequately resourced.

Brad Scott from GNS Science arrived on Thursday and says its most likely weak eruptions will continue for several weeks or months.

He says the authorities have acted appropriately by moving people from the island's west to the east over several days.

But he says the volcanic ash and gas in the area is irritating:

"Downwind ashfall is falling on the forest, its falling on the villages, its falling on the gardens. In some places its already started to create a desert, in other places its only light ashfall. But people are suffering from sore eyes, throat inflammation, and there's some stomach and diarrohea problems also coming through."

Brad Scott says he'll leave seismic equipment on the island so the volcano can be monitored from New Zealand.