Relief needs surge in West New Britain after latest eruption

4:26 pm on 5 August 2019

There's an urgent need for additional relief for people displaced after the latest volcanic eruption of Papua New Guinea's Mt Ulawun.

Mt Ulawun started erupting at about eight in the morning, local time.

Mt Ulawun erupting in June Photo: AFP / Niugini Helicopters / Craig Powell

The volcano in West New Britain province erupted again at the weekend, blanketing the surrounding area in thick ash.

The ash fall has worsened the plight of over 8000 people still displaced by Ulawun's major eruption in June.

West New Britain's governor, Francis Maneke, is in Port Moresby, updating the national government.

He said his province has limited funding to be able to cope, and desperately needs more government support.

"It's quite heavy at the moment, so the tents that have been used have been covered with ash. So, relocation to another place will need new tents and also additional rations to sustain the population there."

Francis Maneke said a provincial disaster team is assessing the extent of the latest damage, and numbers of evacuees.

Mr Maneke said the weekend eruption was similar to the June event in that it burst into activity and then settled down again within a day or so.

But he has described the latest eruption as even more serious in the way it has compounded the problem of ash cover and contamination of water supplies.

Due to changes of wind direction in the past couple of days, ash fall is an issue for both the provincial capital Kimbe, and Rabaul in neighbouring East New Britain province.

As of Sunday, PNG's national carrier Air Niugini has cancelled flights to West New Britain's Hoskins airport due to the risk posed by ash and other volcanis debris in the region.

Mr Maneke described the latest eruption as having doubled the extent of the disaster the province was already facing.

"We have a funding problem from the province and we seriously want to see that there must be some support for now, immediate support, in terms of the basic items required for the care centre - tents, water, rations and medical supplies," he said.

Temporary toilets at a care centre in Kabaya for people displaced by the Mt Ulawun volcano.

Temporary toilets at a care centre in Kabaya for people displaced by the Mt Ulawun volcano. Photo: Peter Murorera / IOM

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