Media Release: 23 October 2017

National Disaster Management Office

Honiara, Solomon Islands


Temotu’s Volcano Tinakula Erupts: Ash cloud reaches Reef Islands headed toward capital Lata

Temotu Province, Solomon Islands: Initial activity was recorded by the Melanesia Volcano Network, the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department at 6.20am with ash and gas reaching heights of 35, 000 feet (10.7 kilometers) above sea level. Tinakula’s eruption is classed as Category Three, which means a minor eruption. Tinakula Island is uninhabited so there is no immediate threat to people on the island however risk relates to the trade winds carrying ash further to nearby islands.

CURRENT WARNINGS: MET service has issued a warning for aviation.  

HEALTH AND SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS: NDMO has issued a number of public instructions on how to remain safe and healthy.


Volcanic ash is made up of very small pieces of ash that we can breathe into our lungs and that can create irritations on our skin or in our eyes. They can also be toxic and therefore create a health risk through contamination of food and water supply.

  • Eye irritation: Eye irritation can be common because of the small and sharp pieces of ash in the air. These can scratch the eyes creating painful irritations and Red Eye Infection (conjunctivitis). Try to rinse with clean water, avoid scratching and treat Red Eye (conjunctivitis).
  • Breathing Difficulty: Ash is very small and therefore it can reach into our lungs as we breathe. This can be a problem for children, elderly and anyone with an existing breathing problem. To avoid or lesson affects, please cover your mouth and nose with a cloth, especially damp clothe. Breathing problems related to ash can result in tightness of breath and heavy coughing.
  • Skin irritation: The ash has fine particles that carry toxins that can make the skin itchy. Scratching can further create a problem, as new infections will occur. Rinse your body with water if possible.
  • Ash and water supply: Ash gets into your water supply and can contaminate this. Treat all ash as having toxins that can be harmful to health when swallowed. If ash has settled on your copper roof and then it rains for around one hour or more, your rainwater will be contaminated. Try to cover water catchment sources, disconnect down pipes from tanks before ash settles on and gets washed into tanks by rain. Try to drink from running water sources like streams or drink coconut. Remember your animals will be affected too.



Volcanic ash can travel far carried on high level winds and can be very hard to clean up. It can have significant impacts on safety of houses, use of engines and be damaging to food crops.

  • Cleaning Ash: To clean ash away from homes and roofs, try to broom while dry (covering your nose and mouth with damp cloth) or use damp clothe. Ash turns to a glue-like material is wet and will be very hard to clean.
  • Danger to Houses: If a lot of ash falls on roofs this can be dangerous as it is very heavy and the roof can fall down. Keep roofs clean and if rebuilding make tall and pointy to help ash fall off.
  • Ash and Crops: Clean all vegetables as ash can land on the leaves too and are not good to eat. Ash can initially be toxic and many plants will be affected and die. Later, the ash will create more fertile soil.
  • What to do with Ash Rubbish: Do not dump ash in an area that is a water supply.
  • Engines:Ash can affect engines and air filters so be careful if using these. If heavy ash falls this can also affect visibility when driving.


The volcano and its ash change the weather conditions and can create thunderstorms and heavy rain. This can also lead to little landslides and muddy conditions. It may make reaching the gardens to collect food hard for some times so make sure you have some food stored.


Currently, the ash cloud has travelled over much of Eastern Temotu Province, Reef Islands. Ash is carried on the wind that flows at a high level and this can be different to the direction of wind on the ground. Upper level wind is currently blowing westerly which will carry the ash toward Temotu’s capital, Lata. Currently ground level winds are travelling in a southeasterly direction. 

NDMO encourages the public to take wise decisions to remain safe, strong and healthy during this time. Check our website for further updates and listen to SIBC and other radio stations at main news times.