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By Damaris Minikula

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 6) – Volcanic ash in Kokopo town has caused many people to look for other means of obtaining food as volcanic dust swathes over food gardens and water tanks.

Volcanic dust has been spewing out of the Tavurvur volcano for the past two weeks as a result of a new entry of magma composition beneath the Tavurvur volcano in East New Britain, according to experts.

The chemical reaction has resulted in the production of more volcanic gases and dust.

Rabaul Volcano Observatory chief volcanologist Herman Patia said last week that the new magma composition, called basaltic magma, reacts with dacitic magma that is already present in the caldera, triggering eruptions of ash and dust.

"Every time basaltic magma enters the caldera and reacts with the dacitic magma, a new product of volcanic ash and gases is produced from the chemical reaction.

"This chain reaction results in the production of volcanic gases that pressurises the volcano to continue erupting," he said.

Mr Patia said that without basaltic magma, the volcano will remain quiet.

Since last week, a major volcanic ash fall-out was reported in Kokopo town, Ravat, Ngatur, Gunanba, Nangananga, Raluana and other neighbouring villages, covering buildings and food gardens.

A resident of Bitabaur village said with the dust falling like rain, their gardens have been left untouched because all the leafy vegetables such as aibika and pumpkin have been covered by thick ash.

Water tanks have also been covered with canvases to keep out the volcanic dust.

Mr Patia said the south-easterly winds had switched to north- westerly winds which had blown ash and volcanic dust to the Kokopo area and Burma Road villages such as Rakunai and Navunaram.

"This is a transition period of wind direction and many areas of the province will be expecting an ash-fall out as the winds shift directions," he said.

November 7, 2005

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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