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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

PNG Airport Reopened As Volcanic Activity Lessens
People affected by cancelled flights took to boats for transport

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 31, 2013) – The main airport in PNG's East New Britain has re-opened after volcanic ash from nearby Mount Tavurvur forced all flights to be cancelled.

The volcano roared back into life a couple of weeks ago and aviation authorities shut down Tokua airport.

Chamber of Commerce president Nick Lyons has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program authorities have now allowed flights to resume.

"The rates at which ash is coming from the volcano has reduced dramatically," he said. "The civil aviation authorities have withdrawn the notice of closure on the airport and replaced it with a notice of warning, which means that commercial flights can now resume. So we're a lot nearer the end of the problem than the beginning, which is good news for us."

About 1,000 people have been affected by the airport's closure, with concerns East New Britain would be completely cut off.

The delays forced some people to try to make the crossing to New Ireland in small overcrowded banana boats.

Mr. Lyons says, given some passengers have made alternate arrangements, it is unclear how long it may take to clear the backlog.

"The big concern at this time of year is always people returning to work from their annual holidays or students and so on who have to be in other centers by a given date, so there's been a considerable amount of anxiety here in the last couple of weeks over those people," he said.

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