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The residents of Ambae Island are preparing for the worst.

Bailey Bennett
September 26, 2017

More than 7,000 people in the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu have been moved to emergency shelters as the Monaro volcano verges on eruption, Al Jazeera reported.

The increasingly active volcano forced a state of emergency on Tuesday and, as a result, 70 percent of Ambae Island's 10,000 residents were forced to flee the area. While Monaro has been active since its last eruption in 2005, it wasn’t until this past weekend that activity levels were raised to a Level 4.

According to Australia’s ABC, that's the second highest level in Vanuatu's volcanic alert system.

Related: Now You Can Dive Into an Active Volcano on Google Street View

“There's ash, fire, stones, and lava being thrown out from the mouth of the volcano," Shadrack Welegtabit, the director of Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office, told ABC.  

While officials hope to avoid a major eruption, it’s difficult to predict what the volcano will do next.

As Al Jazeera reported, the volcano’s eruption could be a serious threat to the nation’s long-term food sources, as Vanuatu is already one of the world’s poorest countries.

"People on Ambae rely on a subsistence lifestyle, " Georgia Tacey, country director for the non-profit organization Save the Children, told Al Jazeera. "And so the big fear is not just the issue of displacement but the condition of crops and vegetation that people will go home to.”

Should the volcano erupt, dangerous volcanic gas and acid rain could damage the island’s crops. While the national government has approved a $2 million fund for food, shelter, and water for evacuees, the aftermath and inevitable lasting damage could require much greater resources.

Monaro, which is located on the Pacific’s particularly active Ring of Fire, isn’t the only volcano currently threatening to erupt. Some 57,000 people have already been forced to flee parts of Bali, in Indonesia, as the eruption of Mount Agung seems imminent as well. 

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