Clouds of smoke off Vanuatu coast as volcano rumbles into life

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An undersea volcano became active on Wednesday off the coast of Vanuatu, its meteorological service said, with pictures on social media showing massive clouds of smoke spewing into the air.

The East Epi Sub-Marine Volcano, just less than 10 km (km) off the coast of the island of Epi, is in a state of "minor unrest" and propelling ash into the sky, Vanuatu's Meteorology and Geohazards Department said in a statement.

People nearby reported a smell of sulphur and felt a volcanic earthquake, the department said, adding that the volcano may subside or increase to a "minor eruptive state" at any moment.

Officials say an area with a 10-km radius around the volcano is dangerous, and people are advised to watch for any possible tsunami waves.

A big underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga just over a year ago unleashed an atmospheric shockwave that radiated out at close to the speed of sound and pushed large waves across the Pacific to the shores of Japan and Peru, thousands of kilometres away.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Robert Birsel)