The National – Monday, January 3, 2011
By MALUM NALU
MANAM Island in Madang began a series of eruptions on Christmas Day and activities continued up until last Thursday when larger eruptions occurred, resulting in some panic by people on the island.
This was revealed at the weekend by Madang businessman Sir Peter Barter, who flew his helicopter to the island.
At Dugalava, a spokesman for the people said more than 1,000 people needed to be evacuated. Similar stories emerged from other villages right around the island.
Sir Peter released funds to buy petrol and diesel and the provincial disaster office delivered the fuel to Bogia for evacuations if necessary.
“Both the Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, and acting PM Sam Abal were advised and contact was made with the the National Disaster Service director, Martin Mose, who has since despatched the operations manager to coordinate activities in Madang,” he said.
Due to heavy rain, Sir Peter delayed departing Madang, but flew to Bogia to pick up Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) officer Herman Tibong and a provincial disaster officer and Bogia administrator and flew to Manam for an aerial inspection.
“While there was evidence of lava flow in two valleys, most of the villages were intact and the eruption had subsided,” he said.
“The RVO increased the level to “three”, which basically warns people not to climb to higher grounds or walk into or across the valleys in fear of lava flow.”
The team accompanying Sir Peter advised the people that there was no immediate danger provided precautions were followed and the people were assured that the situation would continue to be closely monitored.
Following the visit to Manam and Bogia, Sir Peter made quick stops at Asuramba, Malala and Mangem to assure the people there was no immediate danger. The National Disaster Office and the Rabaul observatory would consider further actions if and where necessary.
Sir Peter had recommended that Radio Madang be put back on air immediately so people on Manam could be kept advised.
“Clearly they were frightened, many demanding to be relocated to the mainland,” he said.
Sir Peter said that unless some arrangements were made for shelter and food, evacuating people could result in serious problems, especially given the fact it was a holiday weekend and it would be difficult to get services delivered.
“The Manus border barge was placed on alert if it was necessary to evacuate Manam,” he said.