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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Volcanic Eruption in Papua New Guinea Forces Cancellation of Flights

The eruption of the Ulawun volcano in Papua New Guinea is expected to continue, and flights may be canceled. Please monitor the Papua New Guinea Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre for updates.

The Papua New Guinea volcano began erupting on Monday, shooting a cloud of ash into the sky and forcing the cancellation of some flights.

Several villages are affected by the volcanic activity, which has seen smoke and ash spewing from the peak. Some homes have been destroyed, and the lava flow blocks roads. Some residents of the area are being evacuated to government-managed care centers.

Teams had been sent to the Mount Ulawun area on New Britain island to coordinate an evacuation after it began erupting on Monday, state broadcaster NBC PNG reported senior disaster management official Clement Bailey as saying. Flights from the island’s Hoskins airport had been canceled, he added.

Ulawun, on the Pacific Ring of Fire, is an active stratovolcano erupted in 2001. It is located about 190 km northwest of Port Moresby and lies on the edge of the Tonga Islands archipelago. The volcano is part of the Vanuatu Volcanic Arc, which stretches south from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands.

The volcano has been active for a long time and is considered hazardous to humans. Several pyroclastic flows, lava domes, and explosions have occurred.

This is a hazardous volcano, and its location on the edge of the Tonga Islands means that it can trigger a tsunami. Submarine explosions and flank collapse of a volcano can cause volcanogenic tsunamis. They can be more destructive than regular ocean waves, especially when they reach shallow coastlines (Pais et al., 2022).

In addition to this direct threat, eruptions can produce gas clouds affecting distant populations. Therefore, a volcanic hazard assessment of an active or potentially active volcano is essential, particularly for remote communities.

Unfortunately, some populations are reluctant to evacuate from the vicinity of volcanic hazards even when governments recommend them to do so. This is because of traditional and cultural beliefs that are associated with volcanoes. For example, in Vanuatu, a VEI 4 volcano eruption caught the local population by surprise in 1951 because it was the first eruption of this volcano recorded since 1939.

Lack of generational memory can influence some of these beliefs and values. For example, some of the villagers of Kadovar did not know that their island was a volcano until they were informed of its eruption by Samaritan Aviation volunteers in the region. This is why it is essential for a community-based approach to disaster risk reduction to be used in PNG and other developing countries, with particular attention to how to address cultural values and traditions in the face of volcanic hazards. A case study of a community-based DRR project in Vanuatu is provided here, focusing on how to support the evacuation of people from the immediate vicinity of active volcanoes.

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