A team from Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Center will visit Manam Island to inspect the damage from a volcanic eruption that forced at least 2,000 villagers to flee to the mainland.
The volcano on Manam Island, off the north coast of Papua New Guinea, erupted early on Saturday, sending plumes of ash 15 kilometers into the air, the National Disaster Center said.
Manam Island, just 10km wide, is one of the Pacific nation’s most active volcanoes and is home to roughly 9,000 people.
Three villages were directly in the path of the lava flow and residents had to be evacuated to safer ground, Martin Mose, director of the PNG National Disaster Centre, said.
Mr Mose said the volcanic activity has since subsided.He said the team sent to Manam Island will assess the current conditions, the potential for further eruptions and whether any more evacuations are required.
‘A new vent had opened’
The Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) reported the eruption began at 6:00am (local time) and ash falls were so heavy that trees broke under the weight.
“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.
The RVO’s Steve Saunders said it was an unusually large eruption.
“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.”
Mr Saunders said the initial phase of the eruption was over but a new vent had opened, indicating more activity may be likely.
The Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (DVAAC) 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, DVAAC meteorologist Amanda Alford said.
Previous eruptions on Manam have killed residents who breathed in the ash or were buried by landslides, according to volcanic information website volcanodiscovery.com.