12 Oct 2002

Papua New Guinea scientists dispute eruption prediction

8:49 am on 12 October 2002

Scientists in Papua New Guinea have today played down fears of a catastrophic volcanic eruption predicted in Britain's New Scientist magazine.

New Scientist warned that PNG's Mount Pago volcano was showing signs of a catastrophic eruption that could threaten tens of thousands of lives.

Up to 15,000 villagers have been evacuated since Mount Pago erupted in August, spewing ash and lava onto croplands in West New Britain Province.

Mount Pago has erupted at least eight times in the past 500 years, most recently in 1933.

But local scientists say there is not enough data to say whether ongoing rumblings would lead to a major eruption.

The Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory's spokesman Chris McKee says it is exaggerating at this stage to say it's showing signs of a catastrophic eruption.

Mr McKee says it could take months to assess the true status of the volcano because ground sensors had only recently been installed.

He says the thing is erupting and there's some ground movements, but he says there is not enough data to say what course the eruptions are likely to take.