Date:         Mon, 19 Sep 1994 03:36:27 MST
Reply-To: VOLCANO 
Sender: VOLCANO 
From: Graeme Wheller 
Subject:      Rabaul eruption update
To: Multiple recipients of list VOLCANO 
Status: OR

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Radio news reports in Australia this evening (Monday) indicate that Rabaul
is probably erupting from 5 separate vents. Three vents began erupting this
afternoon. Columns of grey ash are rising thousands of metres into the air,
"debris the size of trucks" is being ejected and "black muddy rain" is
falling. The harbour is reported to be boiling and one of the vents may be
on the seabed. From 20 km away the sky above Rabaul is black with ash and
there is with constant lightning and rain and thunder. Ash is now falling on
mainland PNG to the south.

One report indicated that the eruption (of Tavurvur?) began at 0600 (UTC+10)
this morning. Rabalanakaia also began to erupt at about 0630. At 0730 there
was a massive explosion from Vulcan, on the western side of the harbour, and
a new cone larger than Vulcan appears to have grown since then. A new
fissure has also opened up nearby, pointing towards Vulcan.

Evacuations began at 1930-2000 hrs Sunday night and most people were
evacuated during the night before Vulcan exploded. There are fears, however,
that some people may have been killed in that explosion. The reports
indicate that Rabaul town is now being buried in ash.

The new PNG Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, convened an emergency
cabinet meeting this afternoon to deal with the eruption and later made an
aerial inspection of the area.

Rabaul is located at the NE tip of the island of New Britain in Papua New
Guinea, part of the East New Britain Arc. It comprises a large caldera that
is open to the sea, and several post-caldera cones. Its last eruption in
1937 led to the deaths of 500 people. An intense seismic emergency in
1983-85 was thought to be a prelude to an eruption but the seismic activity
gradually declined to background levels. During 1994 seismic activity and
uplift had been increasing steadily.

Graeme Wheller
Consultant Geologist
Volcanex International Pty Ltd
Phone/Fax: domestic (002) 298057 international +61 02 298057