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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 29) - It is still not safe for Manam people to move back to their home island, says chief vulcanologist Herman Patia.

Patia said the volcanic activity on Manam Island since October 21 had decreased but the volcano was still emitting ash with a bright red glow on the southern crater.

He said there were two craters and the southern crater was still active and could cause the other crater to become active.

"The glow is very strong, meaning that the lava is accumulating at the vent of the southern crater and if the pressure is to be released, it will emit pyroclastics and lava down the mountain," he said.

Patia said the molten lava was just at the vent of the crater with no pressure to push it out but as soon as there was enough pressure, lava would project from the vent.

"It is just waiting for the pressure to build up," he said.

Patia said they had upgraded the volcano alert to stage three again since it first erupted in October.

"It is not advisable for the people to return because the evacuation exercise is very costly and if it blows it would be costly for them to be relocated again," he said.

Patia said a study was carried out as to why the volcano on Manam kept becoming slightly active at the middle of every month and it showed that it had to do with the earth tides. "When the tide comes in, it puts the load on the volcano and when the tide goes out it releases the pressure causing the volcano to become slightly active," he said.

He said because the earth tide was monthly it caused the volcano to become slightly active at certain dates of the month.

"Our local man on the ground has been sending readings from the seismograph installed on the island and it is still recording volumes of tremors," he said.

He said apart from the red glow, there were also roaring noises like a jet engine at the southern vent.

Patia said the tremors indicated that the "stomach" of the volcano was still active and the activities from the volcano were fluctuating.

"No one can predict how long the volcano will go on for until it is safe for the people to move back but when the readings and records indicate so, we will let them know," he said.

December 30, 2004

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