Monday, October 09, 2006
Rabaul volcano eruption is positively influenced by wind
Mount Tavurvur, on the outskirts of the former provincial capital Rabaul, erupted yesterday with a blast that shattered windows up to 12 kilometres away.
Around 200 people in nearby villages were evacuated by boats as the 700-metre peak spewed ash, rock and smoke up to 18 kilometres into the air.
Local hotel owner Bruce Alexander says if it was not for favourable winds, the damage could have been far worse than the 1994 eruption that destroyed much of Rabaul and forced the construction of a new capital, Kokopo, 20 kilometres away.
"It was an extremely lucky escape because the volume of ash that was pumping out, if it had landed on any built-up areas, you would have had flats, buildings, but it just so happens that it went over uninhabited areas," he said.
Queensland woman Julie McLean, whose family is living 17 kilometres from the volcano, says the initial eruptions were like sonic booms.
She says it was very frightening, especially for her daughters.
"They were OK until we went into town and saw all the hundreds of people on the roads and all the cars backed up and we had to have the windscreen wipers on because the ash was so heavy," she said.
"When we got home, I knew we had to start to pack in case we had to evacuate and they were very worried about that, and very concerned about having to leave the animals."
Mrs McLean says many locals feared the eruptions would cause a tidal wave.
"There was a lot of panic, a lot of local people ran into the hills thinking the sea would be rising and there would be tidal waves and that the other volcano which blew in '94 was going to go as well," she said.
"There was a lot of rumours and a lot of fear ... and a lot of the local people packed up and ran away."
There have been no deaths or injuries reported.