More than 7,000 people in Bougainville need temporary accommodation after Mt Bagana eruption

Ash fall from the erupting Mt Bagana in central Bougainville has collapsed a number of traditional houses.

A cabinet minister in the government of the autonomous Papua New Guinea region, Theonila Roka Matbob, said there is in excess of 7,000 people needing temporary accommodation as a result of the eruption.

Mt Bagana, erupted for the first time in 11 years more than two weeks ago, depositing ash over a broad area, with lava flowing into the rivers surrounding the mountain.

Matbob said thick layers of ash have collapsed some sago leaf roofed houses in rural areas.

“Where people still living the most harmonious, traditional kind of life, she said.

“So that has contributed a lot [to people having to seek shelter elsewhere] with the ash fall collapsing homes, where the ashes seem to be having a lot of weight added on to the sago palms that serves as the roofing.”

Matbob said there were more and more reports of eye and throat irritations as a result of the ash, while the ash was having a pronounced impact on water supply and crops.

She said while about one thousand people have been evacuated to the camps at Torokina and Wakunai, the facilities being made available may have to be expanded because as many as 7,000 more may need assistance.

The minister said in the meantime the Bougainville government was providing food and non-food supplies to the victims.

The mountain is continuing to erupt but the scale of the event has been reduced to level two from level three, she said.