An island volcano on the north coast of Papua New Guinea early yesterday erupted, forcing 2,000 villagers to flee from lava flows, the nation’s National Disaster Center said.
Manam Island, just 10km wide, is one of the Pacific nation’s most active volcanoes and home to about 9,000 people.
Three villages were directly in the path of the lava flow and residents had to be evacuated to safer ground, disaster center director Martin Mose told reporters by telephone.
The Rabaul Volcano Observatory reported that the eruption began at 6am, sending an ash column 15km above sea level.
The ash falls were so heavy that trees broke under the weight, the observatory said in an information bulletin.
“The most affected areas are Baliau and Kuluguma and due to the very poor visibility caused by the ash fall, people are using torch light to move around,” it said.
It was an unusually large eruption, said Steve Saunders, the observatory’s principal geodetic surveyor.
“There are no casualties as far as we know, but we are telling people to keep away from valleys for risk of mud flows... There’s a heavy, thick blanket of ash on the flank and if there is heavy rainfall, we are making people aware of the threat,” he said by telephone.
The initial phase of the eruption was over, but a new vent had opened, indicating more activity might be likely, Saunders added.
The Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre issued a threat warning to aviation to reroute around the cloud, which was above the cruising level of commercial airlines.
The cloud was expected to dissipate over the next 12 hours, advisory center meteorologist Amanda Alford told reporters.
Previous eruptions on Manam have killed residents who breathed in the ash or were buried by landslides, the volcanic information Web site volcanodiscovery.com says.
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