The eruption of the Mount Ulawun volcano in Papua New Guinea expelled thick ash almost 5 kilometers

The eruption of the Mount Ulawun volcano in Papua New Guinea expelled thick ash almost 5 kilometers

The eruption of Papua New Guinea’s tallest volcano subsided on Tuesday, but thick ash still rose into the sky and covered nearby roofs and palm trees.

One of the most active volcanoes in the South Pacific nation, the Mount Ulawunerupted on Monday afternoon, throwing ashes up to 15 kilometers high (50,000 feet).

The alert level for the volcano on the northeastern island of New Britain was downgraded by Papua New Guinea’s Geological Hazard Management Division to Stage 3, meaning a moderate to strong eruption. On Monday it was in stage 4, which indicates a very strong eruption.

But the volcano, which sits 2,334 meters (7,657 feet) above sea level, remained active and the eruption could continue indefinitely, the division said.

The Volcanic Ash Warning Center in Darwin, Australia, reported Monday that volcanic smoke rose as high as 15,000 meters (50,000 feet).

The Papua New Guinea division reported that the ash column rose at least 5,000 meters (16,000 feet) on Tuesday before being lost in the atmospheric cloud.

Small volcanic particles in ash plumes can be carried long distances by wind and can threaten aviation. A thick column of smoke stretched tens of kilometers (miles) northwest of Mount Ulawun on Tuesday.

Papua New Guinea’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority did not immediately respond to an email asking if air travel was being affected. Tracking website FlightAware showed normal activity on Tuesday at the nearest major airports, in the national capital, Port Moresby, and in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.

The nearest large city is Bialla, which is set among oil palm plantations on the slopes of Ulawun, 47 kilometers (29 miles) to the southwest, the division said. Hargy Oil Palm Ltd., a Bialla-based company, did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The division said that Thick layers of black ash were causing leaves to fall on palm oil plantations near the volcano and accumulating on roofs.

Bialla has a population of more than 13,000 people, according to the World Bank.

The eruption had prompted Japan to assess the risk of a possible tsunami on Monday, but none occurred and the Papua New Guinea division said the threat was “nil.”

Papua New Guinea is located in the “Ring of Fire”, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where much of the world’s volcanic and seismic activity occurs. Ulawun has erupted repeatedly since the 18th century, and its last major eruption in 2019 prompted the evacuation of more than 5,000 people.

The division said there are no known casualties due to Ulawun’s history of eruptions.

But major impacts in terms of population displacement, damage to infrastructure and disruption of services were common, the division said.

(with information from AP)

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