A volcano in Papua New Guinea surprisingly woke up from its long slumber, spewing lava for the first time in years and sending ash clouds 2.1 kilometers above the sea level.
More than 500 residents of the Kadovar Island have been evacuated to Blup Blup Island in the north, according to the local media.
Kadovar, a 365 meters tall volcanic island located just north-east of PNG at a distance of nearly 24kilometers, began to erupt Friday around noon. According to the experts, it is the “first surprise volcano to erupt in 2018.”
The volcano has not only engulfed the island with thick dust and clouds of smoke but has also been showering neighboring islands with volcanic ash.
Experts are looking for the possible reasons for the unexpected eruption.
“It’s just a continuous emission of volcanic ash at the moment,” said Cheyne O’Brien, a forecaster at the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.
If the wind changes its direction, the rescue operations might get affected at PNG’s Wewak airport, O’Brien added.
Authorities responded quickly to the distressed residents’ calls asking for help. Boats were sent from Kopar, a neighboring island, nearly half an hour away, to evacuate the residents.
“The island is in a critical situation. The clouds are darker and increasing at an alarming rate,” said Tom Kelly, a Kopar council member.
Wewak District Administrator Ricky Wobar said the situation on the island had “worsened,” after they flew overhead “to assess the situation on the island, where they observed lava coming out of the once dormant volcano.”
The Rabaul Volcanological Observatory told local news website Loop PNG the eruption could become “explosive” and there is a potential threat of tsunamis and landslides.
“Due to the steepness of the island, landslides are possible and together with the explosive nature of the magma, tsunamis may be generated,” a report read. “It appears from satellite imagery and aerial photographs that it started with mild vulcanian activity from a vent at the SE (southeast) base of the cumulodome. It appears a fissure may be opening just inside of the western wall of the vent’s breach, descending down to at least sea level.”
There were no confirmed records of a previous eruption of Kadovar, said Chris Firth, a volcanologist at the Macquarie University in New South Wales.
While it is the first time the volcano is believed to have erupted, a possible eruption was witnessed by early explorers in 1700. In 1976, the volcano displayed a short period of heightened thermal activity before a burst of “seismic unrest” in 2015.