Ulawun is considered as one of the world’s most hazardous volcano.
The volatile volcanic peak in Papua New Guinea has erupted on June 26, 2019, spewing lava high in the air and sending residents fleeing in the streets.
“The volcanic activity at Mount Ulawun began at 7am this morning after slight rumbling and light emission,” reported Leo Porikura, an official with the West New Britain Disaster Office.
Deep eruption plume of Mount #Ulawun volcano? Papua New Guinea ??is expanding as the sun goes down, with bits of it beginning to move southward in light northerly upper level winds as seen by Himawari-8?️with RAMMB Slider. #eruption #volcano #PapuaNewGuinea pic.twitter.com/zJfSvlFW6O— YouStorm (@YouStormorg) June 26, 2019
Witnesses had reported ash spewing out of the 2,334m summit, sending trails spanning high overhead.
Emissions from Mt Ulawun in West New Britain Province this morning and latest at the moment. This is very dangerous for the nearby communities in Ulamona & Bialla town as well. Mt Ulawun is one the dangerous volcanoes in #PNG & also in the pacific region. #sleepinggiant pic.twitter.com/unQelqL91T— Quentin Talingapua (@QuencyHoooraay) June 26, 2019
“The sky has turned black,” said Kingsly Quou, manager of the nearby Mavo Estates palm plantation.
Quou said that villagers living at the base of the volcano had already been evacuated and he and his colleagues were gathering their belongings.
Japanese satellite imagery and sources on the ground had shown sulphur dioxide and now volcanic ash drifting from the crater.
Some (semi-) quantitative data from #Himawari of the #Ulawun eruption. Ash signal difficult to discern (tropics) but there is plenty of ash. SO2 signal clear but I can’t quantify until I know the height (likely >18 km). @andrewcraigtupp @simoncarn Data JAMA/JAXA. pic.twitter.com/ziZ6mp8eyB— AIRES (@airesEO) June 26, 2019
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said the ash reached more than 13km into the air. The bureau’s Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre issued a “red” warning to airlines, although there is not believed to be an immediate threat for flight routes. Flights to New Britain have been cancelled.
Close up shot of Mt Ulawun eruption today, with red lava blasting out. People living their villages near the volcano and moving out. Picture taken by Sophie Gett. #Ulawun #Ulamona #WestNewBritain #PNG pic.twitter.com/PNd8XnGcQE— Quentin Talingapua (@QuencyHoooraay) June 26, 2019
Thousands of people live in the shadow of Ulawun, despite it being one of the most active volcanoes in the country.
“Around 3,000 plus were gathered at the Church hall and all vehicles from Ulamona, a six ton truck, a long wheel bases Isuzu and Mama truck, Fathers Land Cruizer Ute and my 5 Door LC have been working flatout moving people to Kabaya Community,” Mr Saunders reported.
“The immediate need now would be food, water and medicine as we were just recovering from the long wet season.“
At Ulawun, Mr Saunders said his teams were nervously watching. The volcano was steadily rumbling away, he said, belching ash and gases, but could either settle down or intensify in the coming hours. “It’s still early days [as] to what it’s going to do,” he said.
The nearby Rabaul Volcano Observatory said emissions from the volcano were getting darker, indicating a higher ash content – which can cause breathing problems, eye irritation and skin irritation because of the high acid content.
The volcano had been showing signs of increased activity for the past few weeks, but the eruption started out-of-nowhere on Wednesday, when the 2,334 metre volcano started spewing ash as high as 13km into the air.
Witnesses said lava had cut off the main highway in north of the island.
Ulawun, on the remote Bismarck Archipelago chain, is listed as one of 16 “Decade Volcanoes” targeted for research because they pose a significant risk of large, violent eruptions. [RNZ.CO.NZ, StraitsTimes]