Tsunami, Landslides Feared After First-Time Eruption of Papua New Guinea Volcano

CC0 / / Volcano eruption
Volcano eruption - Sputnik International
Between 500 and 600 residents of the island of Kadovar, just off the coast of Papua New Guinea's main island, have been evacuated after a volcano long believed dormant erupted, spewing a massive plum of ash some 2,133 meters into the air.

Officials from the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center confirmed that the 500 meter (1,640 feet) tall volcano erupted Friday. "Since then, it's been emitting a continuous plume out to the west-northwest," center forecaster Chris Kearney said.

The eruption was still going as of Sunday morning, and could turn explosive, leading to a risk of tsunamis and landslides, according to observers. For the moment, the 2 km-tall plume of ash is not a hazard to local aviation, but a change in wind direction could cause problems at Wewak Airport, located on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea's main island. Local media reported that over half of Kadovar has now been "covered in volcanic products." Shipping and boat operators have been advised to avoid the island.

US-based charity organization Samaritan Aviation, which flies seaplanes to remote areas across Papua New Guinea, reported on its Facebook page that all the island's residents have been safely evacuated, and no loss of life was reported.

Seismograph - Sputnik International
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The Kadovar volcano has been dormant for centuries, although Kearney said that it had shown some seismic activity in 2015. "It was rumbling a bit, but it didn't erupt at the time, and that's the only activity in its recorded history apart from the recent eruption," the expert said. 

Before that, the volcano may have been one of two "burning islands" referenced by English explorer and pirate William Dampier in his journals. Dampier had recorded the volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean during his search for Terra Australis, the southern continent once believed to be a myth, in the 17th-century.

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