Speaking from the island, Coordinator for the newly formed Manam Community Disaster Preparedness, James Sukua said volcanic activity started during the night on Tuesday 19th of October and continued to the next morning.
He said at around 7am on Wednesday 20 October, there was a big rumble and by 8:45am heavy volcanic smoke had risen above the crater about 400 metres high and then it all started to fall.
About eight of the 15 villages on the island were covered in volcanic clouds as could be seen from the mainland.
Mr Sukua said, parts of the island starting from Baliau village all the way to Dugulava, were affected. Scoria falls or mud falls as well as the volcanic dust. As a result, the food gardens as well as the water sources affected.
Nevertheless, he said any assistance from the government is unlikely at this is the case most often. Mr Sukua added that whenever disaster strikes the government response is always very late.
According to the small observatory instrument on the island, the scoria and mud fall from the volcano lasted for about 40 minutes.
“So in the morning there was lava flowing at Budua village from the South-east valley. This caused dust to fall on the villages from Baliau to Zogari and Waia.
Mr Sukua pointed out that after many years of witnessing the sloppiness of the government’s response to the Manam Volcano eruptions, the Manam Community on the island have initiated a local CSO to assist the people during disaster emergency.
“That is why we formed this association called ‘Manam Disaster Community Preparedness and Response” and they are the people now on the ground monitoring the situation.
“They have fuel, they have outboard motor dinghies standing by to monitor the situation and as soon as when Rabaul alerts the government on the stage of the Manam volcano activity, we can go in and move the people to safety before the disaster actually strikes,” he explained.
The current population of people on the island is 4000 plus in all the villages. He said they carry out awareness to all communities educating them about the procedures to avoid danger and evacuation protocols.
“So now we call on the government to recognize this committee and see how its operating. We have even had it registered with IPA and very soon, we will be launching it.”
Meanwhile all three primary schools on the island including the neighbouring Boesa Island had been suspended, even though the volcanic activities have scaled down. This is because of uncertainty of another eruption occurring and due to food gardens being damaged.
The three schools on the island are in Dugulava, Boesa and Bieng and they are all closed.
The Manam Community Disaster Preparedness Response committee was formed and operating for almost five years. It has a constitution and executive members.
The organization registered last year with PNGIPA and for sustainability, an annual registration fee of K24 collected from every family that is K2 monthly contribution.