Alert for Mt Bagana, 10,000 evacuated in Bougainville eruption

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More than 10,000 persons are being evacuated after the Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) issued a Stage Three alert for the Mt Bagana volcano in Central Bougainville.

South Bougainville MP Timothy Masiu has advised the people to remain calm as government officers focused on the evacuation exercise.

“At the moment people are being encouraged to evacuate themselves from the danger zones as quickly as possible. The eruptive behaviour of Mt Bagana is unpredictable right now,” he said.

He said reports reaching his office from other parts of the electorate, showed that continuous heavy rain was causing rivers to flood and was also damaging food gardens.

“So far, no deaths have been reported. I hope this remains like that, until relief arrives,” he said.

Wakunai coordinator Matthew Kusa said the district received the alert on Monday and started evacuating people.

“The initial falling of volcanic dust started on Saturday and by Sunday, there was a heavy downpour of volcanic dust in the surrounding villages within Rotoka.”

Masiu said Bougainville Regional Member Peter Tsiamalili Jr has taken the lead in arranging for the immediate deployment of Ima Itikarai, RVO assistant director, to the volcano’s site.

Kusa said the volcanic ash was damaging water sources such as waterholes, creeks, rivers – and gardens.

Some children are already complaining of sore eyes, coughing and diarrhoea.

“We are doing our best to evacuate everyone,” he said.

The challenge is dealing with more than 7,000 persons from four wards and more than 20 villages including Atasiapa, Tarakoa, Agarato, Sisivi, Raravapa, Pouka, Siroripaia, Kasiaraua, Sisikaukau, Atao, Virepa, Verarusi, Uriora, Akorea, Kakasipa, Togarao, Ruruvu, Orupa, Ibu, Karaoturi, Karekopa and Kuritaturi.

Their population is 7,836. There are other people crossing over from the Torokina side to seek help.

“So now we have over 10,000 people who we have to find temporary shelter for,” he said.

Kusa said a report has already been given to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

“So for now, we are evacuating everyone to the Wakunai Station and currently placing people in the classrooms and the youth hall.

“But there are more people coming.

“We need shelter, food, water and medicines,” he said.

Ruruvu Health Centre officers have also declared all water as contaminated.

Masiu said he was still waiting for reports from the Buin, Siwai and Bana.

“I was advised that officers from the ABG at the district level area are carrying out investigations and a preliminary report will be released soon,” he said.

All Bougainville MPs and the ABG administration are working together to bring in relief supplies to the care centre set up at Wakunai.

Meanwhile, the RVO is expected to release a situation report on Mt Bagana today.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS