RNZAF Orion to survey volcanos on way home from Middle East

The New Zealand Defence Force is planning to conduct an aerial survey of an erupting volcano on Vanuatu’s Ambae Island tomorrow to help authorities determine the imminence of a large eruption.

FILE PHOTORNZAF P-3K2 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Phillip Pavlovich.

Acting Air Component Commander Group Captain Nick Olney said a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-K2 Orion, returning from maritime security operations in the Middle East, would survey three of Vanuatu’s active volcanoes on its way home.

“The aerial survey had been planned before Ambae’s recent activity intensified and would also include Ambrym and Lopevi volcanoes”, Group Captain Olney said.

“The Orion has sophisticated surveillance capabilities that will allow us to monitor volcanic activity from a safe distance.

“The imagery taken by the aircraft will help Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office assess recent volcanic activity and potential impacts.”

Vanuatu authorities recently raised the official alert level to four as an eruption on Ambae Island continued to intensify.

Alert levels range from 0 to 5, with level 5 indicating a large-scale eruption.

About 10,000 people live on Ambae Island, which has one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Authorities have observed ash falls across the island and have warned of acid rain and pyroclastic mud flows.

There are about 100 New Zealanders in Vanuatu.

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Brian Hartigan

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