Thursday, July 20, 2006

Volcanoes, a hot topic right now!

HUNDREDS of people were evacuated from villages in the Bialla area of West New Britain province after two volcanoes, which have been quiet for a long time, erupted.Eruption was observed on Mt Ruckenburg, or the Karai volcano, on July 10, and two days later on Mt Bamus, and the threat of more eruptions prompted authorities to evacuate the villagers to safer areas.

Reports said this was the first recorded eruption of Mt Ruckenburg while, for Bamus, it is the first in 120 years.Bamus is located southwest of Mt Ulawun, another volcano in the area which erupted recently. Observers reported weak to moderate white vapour emitting from Mt Ruckenburg, but no observed ash fall, while there were white-grey emissions recorded at Bamus.Villagers in the area also reported hearing booming noises coming from the volcanoes.

Provincial disaster officials and officers from the Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) are closely monitoring tectonic activities in the area after strong tremors were recorded last weekend.According to a RVO officer, Bialla and Ulamona villagers living near Mt Ruckenberg and Mt Bamus had moved to temporary care centres.“Provincial disaster officials had evacuated more than 1,000 people from three villages in the areas under close scrutiny for possible volcanic activities as a precautionary measure,” the officer said.

He said the latest reports of volcano tectonic activities recorded in the area yesterday afternoon measured between 1 and 5 on the richter scale.“We have set up a new seismographic machine close to Mt Bamus, which is located between Bialla and Ulamona, and it is still recording so we should get a final report by tomorrow morning (today),” he told The National.He said RVO acting assistant director Herman Paita and provincial disaster officials were in the area monitoring the situation.

Radio New Zealand International also reported strong tremors that scientists warn could mean an eruption was near.It said high levels of tremors were recorded but there were no thermal activity from the volcano. The RVO officer said earthquakes in the affected area were being felt almost every hour. The Radio New Zealand report said the Australian government, through its aid agency AusAID, had responded to a PNG Government request for additional monitoring equipment.

Two technical experts from Geosciences Australia were also flown to West New Britain to help watch the situation.Attempts to talk to the director of National Disaster and Emergency Services were unsuccessful as he was attending emergency meetings yesterday.An official statement on the situation is expected today.

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