Saturday, October 04, 2008

Volcanic ashes could cause mudslides in Papua New Guinea

Volcano experts are concerned volcanic ash covering the mountainous region of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea could develop into a mudslide in the wet season.

Ima Itikarai, from the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory, says activity has increased in the area over the past three months.

"The ash that we have seen now is probably second to 1994 - the main eruption in 1994 - and about two-thirds of the Rabaul town was destroyed at that time," he said.

Up to 40 centimetres of ash blankets the township and surrounding villages.

Dry season winds have whisked the debris about causing respiratory problems in the area.
But wet season weather poses the greatest threat.

Light rains mixed with debris on roof tops has already caused the collapse of some weaker houses.

But ash has also accumulated on slopes surrounding the township and it is expected heavier rains next month will lead to mud slides capable of much wider destruction.

Mr Itikarai says ash continues to fall and he is unsure if and when it will stop.

"It could sort of increase again but that's difficult to say," he said.

"At the moment the trench of the activity we are monitoring is sort of also showing signs of the eruption ending. But that has been contrary to what we've been seeing during the past two months, so you know things can change."

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