9 Oct 2006

Volcanic activity at Mt Tavurvur in PNG returns to normal

5:43 am on 9 October 2006

A volcano which erupted on the Papua New Guinea island of New Britain causing residents to flee their homes, has returned to near-normal activity.

Vulcanologists say the danger of fresh eruptions on Mount Tavurvur has passed.

The volcano, on the outskirts of the former provincial capital, Rabaul, erupted on Saturday with a blast that shattered windows up to 12 km away.

Around 2,000 people -- 90 per cent of the local population -- fled the town as ash fell from an 18-km plume and lava poured off the mountain's southern slopes into the sea.

But a spokesman for the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory told the Reuters news agency that the level of volcanic activity had dropped significantly since late Saturday afternoon.

In 1994, a large eruption on Mount Tavurvur and the nearby Vulcan peak destroyed much of Rabaul, covering the airport and areas of the town with ash, and forcing construction of a new capital, Kokopo, 20 km away.