What happens when underwater volcano erupts? Photos show explosive scene in Vanuatu

After 19 years of silence, an underwater volcano erupted off the coast of Vanuatu, officials said. Photos show the explosive, ash-filled scene.

A submarine volcano off the east coast of Epi island began erupting just before 8 a.m. local time Wednesday, Feb. 1, the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Department said in a news release.

Vanuatu is a small island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,250 miles east of Australia. Epi is an island in the center of the archipelago.

A photo showing the eruption of the East Epi volcano.
A photo showing the eruption of the East Epi volcano.

The volcanic eruption released steam, toxic gas and ash about 330 feet into the air, officials said. After a few hours, the eruption was increased to a Volcano Alert Level 1.

Vanuatu uses a volcanic alert system with five levels. A Level 1 Alert is on the lower end, meaning the volcano shows “notable signs of unrest,” per the department’s website.

Because the volcanic activity could create waves, locals were advised to stay away from the coast. Officials are monitoring for a tsunami but have not picked up any such activity, according to an update.

Boats and planes were advised to stay at least 6 miles from the volcano, officials said. Photos shared on Facebook show the plumes of ash surging up into the sky.

The volcano in East Epi is part of a series of three underwater volcanic cones spaced a few miles apart, according to Volcano Live. The volcanoes last erupted in 2004, the outlet reported.

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