SUFFERING IN SILENCE: Villagers affected by the eruption of the Ambrym
SUFFERING IN SILENCE: Villagers affected by the eruption of the Ambrym

The forgotten volcano people of Ambry

By TOBY WALKER

THE devastating effects of the Indian Ocean tsunami have commanded the world's attention but volcanologist John Seach believes Australia should look closer to home for the next warning signs.

The Clarence Valley-based 'volcano hunter' is about to embark on his 12th trip to an active volcano on Ambrym, an island 160km north west of Vanuatu's capital Port Vila.

According to Mr Seach, Vanuatu is currently one of the world's hotspots for seismic activity.

After three separate voclanos erupted in the area over the past year, he said it was the cluster of islands 2500km off Australia's east coast that could generate an earthquake like the one that triggered the Boxing Day tsunami.

Mr Seach said Ambrym's 8000 inhabitants have lived in danger since the volcano began erupting a year ago.

Three weeks ago the island was declared a disaster zone with many villagers left struggling for food after acid rains destroyed their crops.

"The average person in the village can't afford to buy any food so they can only eat what they grow," he said.

While Mr Seach is hoping the international community can help Ambrym's people, he makes an interesting comparison between their struggle to be noticed and the recent eruption of Mt St Helen's.

"Some get reported more than others," he said. "For example, at St Helens in the US.

"I think within three hours of the eruption there were 450 media reports whereas we've got the one on Ambrym destroying people's lives and houses for 12 months and we've virtually had no reports about it."



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