22 May 2002

PNG villagers on standby after volcano eruption at the weekend

4:11 am on 22 May 2002

More than two thousand residents on Papua New Guinea's Manem Island are on evacuation standby after a volcanic eruption at the weekend.

The National Disaster and Emergency Director General, Henry Mokono, says residents have been told to be ready for possible evacuation if there are further signs of the Manem volcano erupting.

The volcano, which has been emitting smoke since January this year, started spewing ash and lava on Sunday night.

The last volcanic eruption on Manem in 1996 killed 17 people.

Mr Mokono says crops and waterways on the island have been destroyed by flowing lava, but no lives have been lost.

He says villagers have been told to prepare for evacuation despite his office downgrading the volcano's status to non critical.

"it has been dropped from stage two to stage one meaning no evacuations at this point in time. From the information on the ground we have been recieving over the last couple of hours is that eruptions have actually subdued and as flow has reduced but nobody is very sure if they will stay like that or there will be an other major eruption."

Henry Mokono