PNG VOLCANO STILL SMOKING AFTER MAJOR ERUPTION

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By Dominic Krau

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 25) – A sudden volcanic eruption on Papua New Guinea’s Manam Island on Sunday that threw smoke and ash 50,000 feet into the sky has subsided.

But scientists on the island say the volcano is still emitting smoke and ash and that there is the possibility of another eruption.

PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare flew to Manam for a first hand look at the damage following a volcanic eruption on Sunday.

The Rabaul Volcano Observatory reported that the Manam Island volcano was emitting ash but that seismic activity had subsided.

Sir Michael traveled to Madang, then flew by helicopter to the devastated island accompanied by acting administrator Robert Yass while the Minister for Inter-Government Relations, Sir Peter Barter, flew his helicopter with radio equipment to repair all radios on Manam.

Sir Michael visited the affected areas of Bien, Dugalava and Kolang and spoke words of encouragement with the people there.

He urged them to look after seismic equipment and the observatory station so the government, through the Rabaul Observatory, can scientifically monitor the volcano and hopefully give warnings of pending eruptions.

During the day, Sir Peter visited Bien, Tabele, Warisis, Dugalava, Abereia, Bukure and Kolang and repaired or replaced all radios on the island.

Sir Peter said all radios were now operational.

He also said the eruptions had subsided and that technical people have arrived and would fly to Manam tomorrow to make medium and long term assessments.

Meanwhile, the observatory’s acting assistant director, Steve Saunders, said that while seismic activity has subsided, the possibility of another eruption remains.

He said the volcano had reached its climax between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, but has since been emitting only smoke and ash.

Volcanologists, including the observatory’s assistant director, Ima Itikarai, are on their way to Manam Island, Saunders said.

The eruption that took place at 8:20 a.m. on Sunday sent smoke and ash up to 50,000 feet high.

Volcanic ashes fell in Wewak, resulting in the Civil Aviation Authority closing down the Boram airport temporarily for safety reasons.

The Prime Minister visited the Catholic Mission at Bien and talked to the parish priest and the people including Tony Sauba, a nominated member of the provincial government, but was forced to move quickly when they were threatened again by falling rocks.

He also spoke to the people of Dugulava and Kolang.

The volcano is still discharging ash and there is some polastic flows, but the situation has improved considerably and scientists from the Rabaul Observatory were to travel with the minister again to Manam today.

Sir Peter said the people gave wide praise to the Prime Minister for taking time to visit Manam.

October 27, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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