SUVA, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai on Thursday ordered a compulsory evacuation, saying that he expected the mass evacuation of up to 11,000 people to begin immediately and be completed by Oct. 6.
Media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post Dan McGarry said on Thursday that most people would be relocated to two publicly owned stretches of land on the neighbouring island of Pentecost.
"They'll be travelling by ship, that's the only reasonable way to ferry that number of people involved. In conjunction with this exodus they will be issuing travel restrictions in the immediate area so that people won't be able to travel in to the affected area and this should facilitate the flow of people," he said.
McGarry said that the prime minister had taken the precaution in order to potentially save lives given the volcano's unpredictability.
The alert level for the erupting volcano was raised to four in recent days - level five is the highest - and Vanuatu's Meteorology and Geohazards Department warned of flying rocks, volcanic gas, acid rain and ash falls.
Plumes of smoke, ash and volcanic rocks have been filmed erupting from its crater by New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) aircraft which flew over the island on Tuesday.
Vanuatu Red Cross coordinator Dickinson Tevi said shipping vessels were on standby awaiting the outcome of the Council of Ministers' meeting.
He said that it was likely Ambae's population of 10,000 would be evacuated to neighbouring islands.
"The whole island itself, it is not safe with the way the activity has been ongoing at level four until now. So we are just waiting on the Council of Ministers' decision this morning (Thursday) and there might be a major change of plans."
Tevi said that people had been displaced before due to eruptions but there had never been a complete evacuation of the population of any island.
But the Vanuatu government is appealing for food aid for the many thousands of Ambae residents now living in shelters on the island. Food is desperately needed and the Vanuatu government is seeking non-perishable items that can tide people over until food crops from other Vanuatu islands can be obtained.
Ambae's Lombenben is believed to be one of the most dangerously active volcanoes in the world and the last significant eruption on the Ambae island happened in 2005.