6 Aug 2002

volcanic damage leads to evacuation

7:20 pm on 6 August 2002

Seven villages in the Papua New Guinea province of West New Britain have been evacuated after the once dormant Mount Pago started spewing ash and smoke yesterday.

John Sipa from the National Disaster Management Office says that over 4-thousand villagers from around the foot of the mountain have been moved because ash is starting to accumulate in food gardens and on houses.

Mr Sipa says the villagers will only be allowed back once the volcano stops sending out ash and smoke.

He says that at one point smoke from the volcano had reached a height of 40-thousand feet.

Mr Sipa says the Rabaul Vulcanological Observatory is monitoring the situation.

He says that no lava has erupted from Mount Pago but they are not taking any chances.

"From bad experience, from bad experience, from the 1998 Rabaul volcano, I think it was, from that bad experience, people are not taking any chances. there is an element of panic and dissarray amongst the locals."

Mr Sipa says West New Britain authorities have requested around 3 million US dollars for the relief effort.