29 Nov 2004

PNG begins evacuation of 9,000 villagers from Manam Island

10:44 am on 29 November 2004

Hundreds of villagers have been evacuated from Papua New Guinea's Manam Island after a volcano threatened a major eruption

Authorities plan to evacuate more than 9,000 people from the island to hastily-established care centres at plantations on the mainland.

The Manam volcano began erupting a month ago, pouring ash and scoria onto villages and food crops and contaminating water sources.

Two people who drank ash-contaminated water died over the weekend.

Luke Kalaua, an official with the Provincial Disaster Office in Madang province, said a landing barge had carried about 600 islanders from Manam Island to the mainland over the weekend.

He said more would be collected in coming days

Mr Kalaua says ash is two to three metres deep in some places, some of the evacuees might not be able to return for years and others will have to be permanently resettled on the mainland.