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PNG’S TAVURVUR VOLCANO SPEWS MAGMA, GAS Thick cloud rising 1.5 kilometers into sky

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 21, 2008) - Mt Tavurvur in Rabaul is continuing to push out thick magma which explodes into dust in the air, releasing gas pressure.

The activity has gradually slowed down since the "strombolian" eruption (semi-molten rocks thrown into the air) last Wednesday night.

People were warned not to go too close to the volcano as rocks were being shot out during explosions, a statement on Thursday warned.

The Rabaul Volcanological Observatory said it was subsiding with old pieces of rocks falling off the rim, leaving big pale-colored lumps of rocks on the surface.

Chief geodetic surveyor Steve Saunders said since Wednesday night’s activity, the center of the volcano’s caldera was slowly going down.

"Solid magma beneath the caldera is being pushed up out of the volcano’s vent causing the caldera to go down, as the new material was still liquid," Mr. Saunders said.

The northeast side of the volcano’s vent was continuing to produce swelling grey ash with the thick clouds rising to about 1.5 kilometers and blown to the east on Thursday.

Ground deformation measured using ground tilt at Sulphur Creek showed that there was a 10 micro-radians movement reading towards the south-southeast direction since last month. Saunders said the readings were more rapid unlike previously where it read 1-2 micro-radians of movement.

Ground deformation also showed that the volcano was still in a "deflated state." Low frequency earthquakes continued as the dome area started to degas last Thursday.

However, the volcano’s activity was expected to remain similar as in previous months. The growth of the dome might mean more explosions but would affect areas within 1km of the volcano due to it’s size.

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