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Waves hit Papua New Guinea villages, no casualties-report

Papua New Guinea villagers were left homeless after a volcanic eruption on a nearby island sent large waves sweeping through villages.
Reuters | By HT Correspondent, Port Moresby
UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2007 08:27 AM IST

Papua New Guinea (PNG) villagers were left homeless after a volcanic eruption on a nearby island at the weekend reportedly sent large waves sweeping through villages, local media reported.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, said Tuesday's edition of the National newspaper in the capital Port Moresby.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii did not issue a tsunami warning for the area.

Disaster officials in Port Moresby said that while they had received reports of an eruption on Ritter Island off northeast Papua New Guinea they cast doubt on the reports of tsunamis.

"Reportedly there were tsunamis which destroyed houses, but I'm not sure about that. I'd be surprised because when it last erupted in 1972 and 1974 the tsunamis generated were very small," said Greg McKee with the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory.

"I can't see any evidence of a seismic record," he said.

In April an undersea earthquake off neighbouring Solomon Islands created a tsunami which destroyed villages, killing 28 people, and leaving thousands of people homeless.

In July 1998, two undersea quakes measuring 7.0 created three tsunamis that killed at least 2,100 people near the town of Aitape on Papua New Guinea's north coast.

The National newspaper reported thousands of people on the eastern side of Siassi Island off the country's northeast coast were homeless after fleeing to higher grounds after the nearby active volcano on Ritter Island blew up on Saturday.

Emergency officials in the city of Lae told the newspaper that reports from the area said tidal waves created by the eruption smashed into Kabi and Kampalap villages on Siassi Island, flattening four houses and sending about 10,000 local villagers fleeing to the hills for safety.

"Ritter Island is an active volcano so we were not surprised at the eruption," said Roy Kamen, director of Lae's disaster and emergency services.

Papua New Guinea and the neighbouring Solomon Islands lie on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire" where volcanic activity and earthquakes are common.

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