Vanuatu officials on Thursday ordered the complete evacuation of an island in the Pacific archipelago where a rumbling, belching volcano is threatening to blow. Government spokesman Hilaire Bule says ministers decided they couldn't risk people's lives and so ordered the compulsory evacuation of Ambae island, which is home to about 11,000 people. Island resident Lilian Garae tells the AP she can see "smoke coming out from the hills" and hear regular booming noises from the Manaro volcano. Ambae is one of about 65 inhabited islands in the Pacific nation, which is about one-quarter of the way from Australia to Hawaii.
Officials last weekend raised the volcano's activity measure to Level 4, on a scale in which Level 5 represents a major eruption. "People are quite afraid with the sound of rumbling going on," says Dickinson Tevi, a spokesman for the Vanuatu Red Cross Society. "They are very uncertain and afraid." Some residents have already left the island voluntarily. For them, it's a waiting game to see whether the volcano erupts or returns to normal activity that's not a threat. Officials say they have no real way of predicting what the volcano will do next and that evacuees will just have to wait it out. Bule says the evacuation will be carried out by boat and continue through Oct. 6. He says residents will be moved onto nearby islands. (Read more Vanuatu stories.)