Volcano spews ash again
The volcano near Rabaul on the eastern end of the island of New Britain, began erupting on Monday night, the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory reported. It had been quiet since February 17 last year. Rabaul was evacuated in September 1994 before it was devastated by twin eruptions from Mt Tavurvur and nearby Mt Vulcan. Residents and businesses have since restored the shattered and ash-covered town and are worried about the latest activity. The town's Chamber of Commerce President Bruce Alexander said today the ash plumes were being taken out to sea by the prevailing north-west winds. But if the eruptions continued, Rabaul would be under threat of ash falls when the seasonal wind shift to the south-west came in April, he said.
"It seems a fairly small-scale eruption at this stage, but it's consistent," Mr Alexander said. Observatory assistant director Ima Itikarai said seismic data revealed signs of renewed volcanic activity in the middle of last year. A scientific workshop held in Rabaul in September highlighted the possibility of renewed eruptions. Based on past activity, fluctuating eruptions could go on for some months or up to a year but they were not expected to reach levels that would pose a threat to lives, Mr Itikarai said. Mr Alexander said: "There will be more dust and we will just have to put up with it. It's not big black clouds so it could be very little dust but it will be messy."