14 May 2003

State of emergency after eruption in the Northern Marianasion

5:48 pm on 14 May 2003

A state of emergency has been declared in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas as eruptions from a volcano on Anatahan show no signs of abating.

The volcano on the island north of Saipan started to spew clouds of ash on Saturday.

Governor Juan Babauta says the ash and cloud poses a continuing threat to the waters and air space around Anatahan.

Ray Chong, a geophysicist at the Emergency Management Office says the eruptions have come as a shock to everyone.

"there's no historical data, for the last eruption. ...It's been dormant for a very long time, unfortunately, the seismic signal was coming in very static so we couldn't see if there was any pre-eruption activity."

Ray Chong says a representative from his office flew over the island yesterday and saw the local village was covered in ash.

Mr Chong says the 15 or so inhabitants were off-island when the eruption occurred.