A “danger zone” with a radius of 10 km has been identified around the submarine volcano “East Ebi”, which is 68 km from the capital, Port Vila.
After reports of fumes at the site, the dormant volcano spewed ash up to 100 meters early Wednesday.
The volcanic activity started just before 8am (2100 GMT Tuesday), according to the local meteorological department.
Witness Philip Dick told AFP the ground started shaking before smoke appeared over the site.
“Then the explosions started… and there is still a bad smell of sulfur in the surrounding villages,” he added.
Officials have raised the volcano’s alert status to level one, which means “minor disturbances” on a scale of one to five.
Authorities have asked locals on nearby Ibe and Tongoa islands to avoid the coast, fearing “current volcanic eruptions could cause a potential tsunami”.
He noted that the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center has not yet recorded any activity in the Vanuatu region, but “such volcanic eruptions have the potential to cause tsunamis.”
Vanuatu was hit by a magnitude 7 earthquake in early January off the largest island of Espiritu Santo in the north of the archipelago.
Vanuatu is located in the region “Ring of Fire” in the Pacific Ocean, which witnesses frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
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