By Scott Waide in Lae
Madang Governor Peter Yama confirmed today that at least two Papua New Guinea Defence Force vessels were being sent to conduct emergency evacuations from Manam Island following the volcanic eruption yesterday.
“The Prime Minister has been very supportive since the he was informed,” the Madang governor said.
Yama was in Port Moresby to mobilise additional support from the national government.
“A platoon from the Engineering Battalion is traveling to Madang. HMS Dreger and Port Moresby have been allocated for the evacuation operation. Two officers from the PNGDF Headquarters are traveling to Madang to assist the Provincial Administrator.”
Government officers from Bogia district in Madang were deployed to Manam early yesterday after the volcano erupted.
The Acting Provincial Administrator, John Bivi, said his officers had been in close contact with village elders since the eruption.
“This eruption is different. There are two craters that have erupted and lava flow has happened. This is problematic.,” he said.
Manam Islander James Sukua, who contacted his family yesterday, said several trees and at least two houses had collapsed during the heavy ash fall.
At least two houses along the path of the lava flow were destroyed.
“Rain and ash fell in the morning in places like Baliau, Bien Station and Kuluguma. No casualties [were] reported.”
The Rabaul Volcano observatory reported that the ash column rose 15 km from the volcano.
The observatory also warned pilots to stay clear of the Manam airspace over the next 12 hours.
“Additional volcanic activity is possible in the coming days. Individuals planning to travel to Manam are advised to avoid the areas affected and to wear respiratory gear and covering clothing.”
Pacific Media Watch reports: About 2000 people live on the 83 sq km island – a huge drop from 2004 when the island was last evacuated after an eruption. Most of the 10,000 islanders who used to be on Manam live in poverty in refugee camps on the mainland in Madang province.
Scott Waide is chief of the EMTV News bureau in Lae. This article was first published on his blog My Land, My Country and is republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.