Vineyard workers head home to Vanuatu's venting volcano

Vineyard workers, from left, Hannington Banga, David Banga, Shephard Vina and Brian Tari will fly home to Vanuatu on ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

Vineyard workers, from left, Hannington Banga, David Banga, Shephard Vina and Brian Tari will fly home to Vanuatu on Wednesday despite the risk of a volcanic eruption.

Vineyard workers from Vanuatu wrapped up for the season in Marlborough say they are excited to head home, despite the risk of a large volcanic eruption.

Their families living on the island of Ambae, near the erupting volcano, were safe, they said.

They were among about 5000 people evacuated from north and south Ambae after a state of emergency was declared on Monday.

Steam billows from the Monaro volcano on Ambae in 2005. It started belching ash on Saturday, prompting Vanuatu's ...
NZPA/AP

Steam billows from the Monaro volcano on Ambae in 2005. It started belching ash on Saturday, prompting Vanuatu's government to upgrade it to a "moderate eruption event". (File photo)

The volcano, known as Monaro, has been rumbling for weeks. It started belching ash on Saturday, prompting Vanuatu's government to upgrade it to a "moderate eruption event".

READ MORE: * New Zealand Defence Force set to survey erupting Vanuatu volcano

Vineyard workers in Marlborough said they would fly home on Wednesday morning after five months of pruning vines.

Less concerned by Monaro's activity, they said they were ready for a warmer climate after a "busy" winter season.

Brian Tari said his family was evacuated from their home last week.

They lived "one or two hours" from Lake Monaro, in the centre of which lay the volcano.

Hannington Banga said he heard his family were safe after leaving their home in Lolovenue Village, in north Ambae. 

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He believed they would know soon when they could return.

Marlborough man Geoff van Asch said his family was travelling to Vanuatu on Wednesday to visit some of the Ni-Vanuatu men who worked on local vineyards over winter.

Several went home on Saturday, and one had contacted him to warn him away from Ambae, he said.

"I pulled the plan yesterday in regards to going out on the island, but from the point of view of the wife and two boys we're still going."

They would travel instead to Vanuatu's largest island Espirtu Santo, about 50 kilometres from Ambae.

The New Zealand Defence Force said it would do an aerial survey of Ambae on Tuesday, to help local authorities determine the risk of eruption. 

The aerial survey had been planned before Ambae's alert level was increased, and would also include Ambrym and Lopevi volcanoes.

 - Stuff

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