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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 28) - An increased activity on Karkar Island volcano is worrying volcanologists and Madang residents because the lack of monitoring equipment means there is no way of knowing the dangers posed.

[PIR editor’s note: Karkar Island is an oval-shaped volcanic island located in the Bismarck Sea, about 18 miles off the north coast of mainland Papua New Guinea in Madang Province]

The Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) is relying on images sent to them by Sir Peter Barter, who flew to the volcano to take pictures.

Monitoring equipment supplied by AusAID in 2002 were destroyed within 24 hours of them being set up on the island.

In a situation report dated November 26, the RVO said images received confirmed that there had been an increase in thermal activity and gas emission from the SE and SW flanks of Bagiai cone on Karkar.

The increase in thermal activity has resulted in vegetation dying near these two areas.

The RVO also received a report that people from Kevasop village on the southwest of the island heard low roaring noises in late October. They walked up to the inner caldera and observed vegetation was dying on Bagiai cone in particular on the upper SE and SW flanks. Since that time Bagiai cone has been releasing thin white vapor visible from Kevasop village.

The RVO has requested the National Disaster Centre to assist with carrying out temporary monitoring on the island.

The monitoring will consist of deployment of an earthquake recorder to see whether there are any volcanic earthquakes associated with the increase in thermal activity and gas emission at Karkar.

The team will be flying to Karkar once logistical arrangements are finalized. Peter, who flew to Karkar, said there had been a vast increase in vapor and smoke compared to three months ago.

He said there were reasons for urgent diagnosis of the increase in activity on the volcano.

The RVO’s assistant director Herman Patia said the RVO considered the increase in thermal activity and gas emission for Bagiai cone on Karkar as serious.

But because of lack of monitoring equipment, the RVO has negotiated with the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin, which is liaising with NASA to monitor Bagiai by remote sensing using satellite.

He said RVO was expected to send a team to the island soon and had requested funding from the National Disaster Centre for this trip.

The volcano last erupted in 1979, killing two volcanologists on the island.

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