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.vu Vanuatu Country Information

Vanuatu, officially the Republic of Vanuatu, is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago is some 1,750 km (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 500 km (310 mi) north-east of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and south of the Solomon Islands.

Vanuatu was first inhabited by Melanesian people. Europeans began to settle in the area in the late 18th century. In the 1880s France and the United Kingdom claimed parts of the country and in 1906 they agreed a framework for jointly managing the archipelago through a British-French Condominium as the New Hebrides. An independence movement was established in the 1970s, and the Republic of Vanuatu was created in 1980.

Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands, of which two- Matthew and Hunter- are also claimed by the French overseas department of New Caledonia. Of the 83 islands, 14 have surface areas of more than 100 square kilometers (38.6 sq mi). From largest to smallest: Espiritu Santo 3,956 km² (1,527 sq mi), Malakula 2,041 km² (788 sq mi), Efate (900 km²/350 mi²), Erromango (888 km²/343 mi²), Ambrym (678 km²/262 mi²), Tanna (555 km²/214 mi²), Pentecost (491 km²/190 mi²), Epi (445 km²/172 mi²), Ambae or Aoba (402 km²/155 mi²), Vanua Lava (334 km²/129 mi²), Gaua (328 km²/127 mi²), Maewo (304 km²/117 mi²), Malo (180 km²/70 mi²), and Anatom or Aneityum (159 km²/65 mi²).

Most of the islands are mountainous, of volcanic origin and have a tropical or sub-tropical climate. The nation's largest towns are the capital Port Vila, situated on Efate, and Luganville on Espiritu Santo. The highest point in Vanuatu is Mount Tabwemasana, at 1879 m (6158 ft), on the island of Espiritu Santo. There are several active volcanoes in Vanuatu, including Lopevi, as well as several underwater ones. Volcanic activity is common with an ever-present danger of a major eruption, the last occurred in 1945. Rainfall averages about 2,360 millimeters (93 in) per year but can be as high as 4,000 mm (157 in) in the northern islands.

Vanuatu is recognized as a distinct terrestrial eco-region, known as the Vanuatu rain forests. It is part of the Australasia eco-zone, which includes New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand.

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