Curfew Enforced as More Volcano Eruptions Feared
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) _ A dusk-to-dawn curfew was in force in the devastated port of Rabaul today in anticipation of more intense volcanic activity.
Two volcanoes on either side of Rabaul’s once-picturesque harbor have been spewing ash and smoke on the city for the past eight days, forcing thousands of people to flee.
Scientists monitoring the massive twin eruptions by Tavurvur and Vulcan volcanoes said the eruptions were declining slowly. But they refused to rule out a resurgence of activity.
″For now the Rabaul area must still be considered dangerous,″ a government statement said today. ″The decline in visual and seismic activity is marked and encouraging. However, activity could increase again.″
Australian Associated Press quoted aid agency officials as saying a dusk- to-dawn curfew was in place. Only businesspeople and some residents were issued official passes to enter the city, which was plundered by looters.
The government estimated 52,000 people were sheltering in makeshift camps away from the eruption zone.
Roadblocks have been set up around Rabaul, and police and troops patrol its streets. Police have used tear gas to control crowds and have warned worried residents to stay away.
Police shot out the tires of a car that tried to run a roadblock Sunday night, said an aid worker who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Relief flights by the Australian and New Zealand air forces have brought in emergency supplies. Three U.S. Air Force relief flights are scheduled to arrive during the next few days.
Despite the destruction, only two deaths have been reported.
Rabaul is covered in a thick layer of volcanic ash and much of it has turned to mud. Its weight has collapsed many buildings and destroyed coconut and palm oil plantations.