Vanuatu Red Cross personnel looking at ash fall in East Ambae.
Photo: Vanuatu Red Cross

I’m no expert, but I feel like our planet is trying to tell us something. In addition to every corner of the globe being on fire, doused in rain, or cooked by heat, a new volcanic eruption is adding heavy ash to the list of calamities befalling humanity. The Manaro Voui volcano popped off in Vanuatu, a small island nation in the South Pacific, prompting the evacuation of the entire island of Ambae.

The eruption occurred on Thursday and sent ash flying into the sky. The plume of debris was clearly visible from space, but its impacts were equally dramatic viewed from Earth. The Vanuatu Red Cross released images showing an inky sky and cars driving with their headlights on as ash essentially blocked out the Sun.

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The deteriorating conditions have led the government to issue evacuation orders for the island’s 10,000 residents. A similar order was issued in September last year when the volcano rumbled to life, but Red Cross officials told ABC Australia the current eruption “is becoming more critical” compared what they’ve seen over the past year. The heavy ash has made the evacuation and response process even more difficult.

“We tried to travel to the South today but we have to turn back, because trees are falling, visibility is very very poor, we cannot see far more than 2 meters,” Augustin Garae, a Vanuatu Red Cross disaster coordinator, wrote in a Facebook post.

There is a person holding an umbrella in this picture, taken during the day.
Photo: Vanuatu Red Cross

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Indeed, photos show that the ash has bowed palm trees, clogged rivers, and smothered roads. Janine Krippner, a volcanologist at Concord University, likened the weight of the ash to a bucket of sand or shovel full of wet snow.

“It is literally rock, pulverized rock that has been blasted apart during the eruption,” she told Earther. “When it rains and the ash gets waterlogged it is even heavier.”

In addition to hampering evacuation efforts, ash also poses a huge health threat. The tiny particles and shards of volcanic glass it contains can get caught in lungs, aggravating respiratory problems.

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The volcano has been simmering since last year. But it seems it wanted to join the volcano frenzy of 2018. Eruptions have rocked Hawaii, the Philippines, and Guatemala, taking lives and causing extensive damages. Despite that there have been multiple high-profile eruptions over the past few months, I cannot stress enough that they are not related—nevertheless, I hold that it sure as hell seems like the Earth is trying to get rid of us.

Photo: Vanuatu Red Cross