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A giant plume of volcanic ash is disrupting flights in the Pacific and threatening villagers in Vanuatu, echoing similar problems which caused air traffic chaos in Europe. Forecasters in New Zealand say the cloud, spewing from Vanuatu's Mount Yasur volcano, was about 18-hundred metres high, covering an area of about 200 square kilometres. Tourists have been urged to stay away from the volcano on Tanna island, which has disrupted domestic flights in neighbouring New Caledonia.
Meanwhile, an underwater volcanic eruption has led to a state of disaster being declared across the entire CNMI, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. The governor, Benigno Fitial, declared the state of disaster following a loud explosion at the active submarine volcano on the island of Sarigan, located about 175 kilometres north of Saipan. A huge smoke plume was seen over the island on the weekend. As a result sea and air traffic has been severely affected - posing a big threat to the CNMI's biggest income earner, tourism.
Presenter: Rob Sharp
Speaker: Jack Omar, director of CNMI Disaster Management office