Submarine volcano erupts for first time since 2004
A submarine volcano located near the island of Epi in Vanuatu started erupting at 18:30 UTC on January 31, 2023, prompting authorities to raise the Volcano Alert Level to 1 and establish a 10 km (6.2 miles) danger zone. This marks the first eruption of the volcano since 2004 (VEI 2).
Submarine volcanoes like East Epi are known for their violent eruptions that occur when lava meets seawater. These eruptions can be extremely dangerous and have the potential to sink ships, poison fish, and trigger tsunamis
The latest observations confirm that the volcanic cone is building up with the continuous ash emissions
Authorities have established a 10 km (6.2 miles) danger zone around the volcano and advised locals to stay clear of the coast as phreatic explosions may continue and generate tsunami waves
People on Epi and surrounding islands are also advised to stay on alert for any large earthquake associated with the ongoing volcanic eruptions that could trigger a possible tsunami
Reports and observations from locals at Epi island indicated an increase in the activity of the East Api submarine volcano at around 20:48 UTC on January 31 (07:48 LT on February 1) with steam over the volcano area and sulfur dioxide emissions followed by phreatic explosions propelling ash some 100 m (330 feet) above the sea surface.
After receiving the reports, the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD) advised people on Epi, Tongoa, and the surrounding islands to stay clear of the coast as phreatic explosions may continue and could generate small waves.
Tsunami systems within the Tsunami Warning Center (TWC) have not picked up this activity. However, such eruptions have the potential to create tsunami waves, TWC said and advised people over Epi and the Sheperd groups to exercise observance and stay away from coastal areas.
Soon after, the VMGD increased the Volcano Alert Level for East Api to 1 and established a 10 km (6.2 miles) danger zone.
“Due to ongoing volcanic activity at East Epi submarine volcano with phreatic explosions, light degassing and emissions of ash, the danger zone is at 10 km (6.2 miles) radius around the East Epi submarine volcano,” VMGD said, adding that the latest observations confirmed that the volcanic cone is building up with the continuous ash emissions.
Aviation and Mariners are advised that with the ongoing submarine volcano activity, the danger zone is along the East side of Epi island.
People on Epi and surrounding islands are also advised to stay on alert for any large earthquake associated with the ongoing volcanic eruptions that could trigger a possible tsunami.
The last eruptive episode at this volcano lasted from February 16 to 24, 2004 (VEI 2).