Date:         Fri, 23 Sep 1994 00:13:06 +1000
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Sender: QUAKE-L Discussion List 
From: Dr Kevin Vang 
Comments: To: Multiple recipients of list QUAKE-L ,
          Multiple recips of list SEISM-L ,
          Multiple recipients of list VOLCANO 
To: Multiple recipients of list QUAKE-L 
Status: OR

Half of the massive Vulcan Cone collapsed into the sea this afternoon
sending a massive amount of ash, smoke and debris directly over the
remains of RabaulTown.  Waves from from the collapse likely wreaked havoc
on the waterfront as well.  A chopper chartered by the Sydney Morning
Herald witnessed the collapse, and was able to get dramatic photographs
of the event.

This event is still unofficial, but the direct report of the very
reputable Sydney Morning Herald can be trusted.  These dramatic events
followed on the heels of yesterday's minor lull in activity.

On Wednesday, the eruptive activity subsided slightly allowing some
adventurous people to venture back into the outskirts of Rabaul.
Unfortunately when word went out that some of the outlying roads were
open, many looters descended on the area taking everything they could
find.  Some of the looters were armed with semi-automatic rifles and were
even holding up some of the evacuees who were trying to retrieve some of
their possessions.  This started to lead into a chaotic situation which
prompted the immediate intervention of the army and police.

By nightfall the the army had sealed off all outlying roads and were only
allowing entry by officially authorised personnel.  The lull in the
eruption allowed for some good photo shots of the outlying areas of the
town (about 10-20 kms from the centre).  Most of the houses were totally
or partially collapsed.  it is estimated that within 15 km of the centre
of the city, 80% of the buildings are collapsed in whole or in part (ABC).
The photos showed near total destruction.  Almost all the branches were
off trees, structures were flattened or collapsed and everything was a

With the dawn of Thursday, the eruption renewed its full fury, and many
claimed that it was worse than at any time before.  Vulcan was gushing
massive amounts of whitish ash all morning.  Across the bay, Tervurvur
was belching dark blackish-grey ash and smoke.  The contrast of the two
erupting colours is truly amazing.

As the day progressed the eruptions intensified, and finally Vulcan in
one mass upheavel split apart instantly, collapsing the entire flank from
northwest to southeast (I am not positive of these coordinates, but it
seems the most likely side of collapse according to the live report).
This collapse sent a huge outburst over the town.

Night fell soon after, so we all await the morning to see whats
happening.  Meanwhile in Kerevat the ash fallout has intensified so much
that many of the people who were evacuated there, have now been forced to
leave.  There are unconfirmed reports tonight that Kerevat is being
totally evacuated due to this activity.

Meanwhile in Kokopo, the main evacuation centre, all the stores have run
out of food, and every two-bit dunny has a family living in it.  The
number of displaced persons has passed 50,000 and if tonight Kerevat and
its surrounds are being evacuated, this should rise dramatically.

Another RAAF Hercules arrived at the old Tokua Airstrip.  This formally
disused strip is southeast of the Rabaul (20+ kms) and therefore has
recieved virtually no ashfall.  The ashfall has primarily been directed
across the NE-N-NW-W-SW quadrants leaving much of the SE quadrant untouched.
This carried food, shelter supplies and telcommunications material.

As the scale of this disaster grows, one starts to wonder where its going
to end.  Rabaul is now completely lost. The volcanoes show no signs of
slowing down their eruptions.  New areas are being evacuated.  The social
order is breaking down.  The immensity of the relief and recovery task
are growing seemingly exponentially.

It now seems likely that the effects on the atmosphere will also be
significant.  Australia recorded its lowest historical temperature this
winter, and other nations in the southern hemisphere broke record lows
(RSA, Brasil, Argentina).  Now with a massive eruption one wonders what
next winter may hold in store.  Has anyone out there got a handle on the
atmospheric effects yet???

Both JAL and Korean Air have rerouted their Asian-Australian flights to
avoid the plume.  There has been substantial thunder, lightning and rain
associated with these eruptions as well.  Initially I just put the rain
out to normal tropical moisture.  But after R. Stead's reply and insight,
it would seem plausible that much of the heavy rain is volcanically

I really am awed in wonder about what tomorrow may bring.  I knew when
this thing started, it would be very grave, but I never thought it would
be this bad.

The NGOs in collaboration with the Universities are talking today about
putting together an assessment team to analise the situation in the
medium to long term.  The task will be enormous!!

This is Sydney out.

Kevin Vang