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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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

Volcanic Eruption Leads To Cancelled Flights In PNG
Mt. Tavurvur activity interrupts flights in East New Britain

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 22, 2013) – Air Niugini has suspended all its flights to Tokua Airport in Papua New Guinea’s East New Britain due to ash and vapor blowing in from the Mt. Tavurvur volcano.

The airline’s corporate affairs division said in a statement that the suspension came into effect yesterday and would continue for an indefinite period.

Ash and vapor emissions have continued for the past two days from Mt. Tavurvur volcano.

The Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) could not provide a report yesterday but the emissions were seen and experienced by residents in the province.

Low to loud roaring and rumbling noises were heard last Sunday night when the volcano erupted but none of the spectacular spewing was seen.

Reports later said ash was sent into the air about 500 meters high.

The ash clouds above the crater were blown east and east-southeast.

RVO noted on Sunday that because the activity occurred during the northwest monsoon, it was possible for high altitude ash emissions, with high ash to perhaps affect Tokua Airport.

Air Niugini said: "All operations to Tokua Airport have been temporarily suspended due to a change in wind direction, blowing volcanic ash to fall in the aerodrome and surrounding areas."

It said while PX 252 and PX 253 did fly to Rabaul and Buka yesterday, another flight, PX296, flew to Kavieng and returned to Port Moresby.

"The Rabaul sector was cancelled. The airspace over Tokua Airport will be monitored on a daily basis and any decision to resume flights will depend on the prevailing winds dispersing volcanic emission away from the aerodrome."

The airline advised passengers who have been ticketed to travel to Rabaul to check with their nearest Air Niugini sales office to revalidate the tickets without penalties.

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