By DOROTHY MARK
HUNDREDS of people on Manam Island in Madang scrambled for safety early Saturday during a volcanic eruption, with homes and gardens destroyed by lava and ash.
The islanders fled their homes at Dangale, Koplang and Bokure villages, when they heard the loud rumbling sound described as that of a “jet aircraft”.
Lava and ash destroyed two homes at Kolang and seven at Bokure.
Officers from Government agencies including the Defence Force and national disaster office are on the ground assessing damage and organising relief supplies.
Housewife Lovelyn Muriki said the ashes were so thick that at 8am the area was still dark.
“I used a torch to find my eight children and make sure they stay by my side,” Muriki said.
Iabu local level government president Kenny Boli said ashes affected the villages of Yassa, Madauri, Baliau, Kuluguma, Boda and Waia, plus the Bieng government station.
He said hot lava flowed into Dangale village.
“Our food crops, coconut and banana trees were forced down by the weight of the ashes,” he said.
The Bieng Catholic Primary School on the island, which more than 350 children attend, was covered by the ash. The health centre and the equipment inside were also damaged.
Boli said Saturday’s eruption was much worse than the one they experienced in 1996.
“We measured the thickness of the ash – it’s about 11cm,” he said.
He said people from the worst affected villages were moved to a care centre at Jogari village.
Wells which provided the main water source were covered in ash.
The Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazard Management in a report said the eruption from Manam’s main crater stopped around 10am on Saturday. But “moderate emissions of thick white vapour” continued. It warned that eruptions could resume. “The eruption has stopped but the pattern of eruptions for Manam from previous eruptions suggests renewed eruptions may start again.”
By DOROTHY MARK