South Pacific nation lowers alert level but warns Ulawun explosion could continue “indefinitely”.
A volcanic eruption on a remote Papua New Guinea island has caused some residents to begin evacuating and the island’s airport to cancel flights.
Ulawun, the South Pacific’s most active volcano, spewed smoke up to 15 km (9.3 miles) into the air Monday afternoon, the country’s Geohazards Management Division said, in its first significant explosion for years.
The eruption on the island of New Britain prompted authorities to coordinate evacuation plans and call off fighting at the region’s Hoskins Airport.
The ash plume continued to rise on Tuesday, reaching at least 5 km (3.1 miles), but the country’s Geological Hazards Division lowered its alert level from Level 4 to Level 3 – indicating a “moderate to strong” rather than a “very strong eruption”. “.
The volcano nevertheless remains active and the explosion could continue indefinitely, the division said.
The possibility of the explosion triggering a tsunami off the Japanese coast was ruled out on Tuesday, the division said.
The erupting volcano is 47 km from the town of Bialla, Papua New Guinea, built among palm oil plantations on the slopes of Ulawun.
The division said thick layers of black ash were dropping leaves in oil palm plantations near the volcano and piling up on roofs.
‘Ring of Fire’
Papua New Guinea is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where much of the world’s seismic and volcanic activity occurs.
Ulawun has erupted several times since the 1700s. Its last significant eruption in 2019 forced more than 5,000 people to evacuate.
The division said there have been no known casualties in Ulawun’s history of eruptions.
But major effects in terms of population displacement, damage to infrastructure and disruption of services are common, the division said.