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17 December 2016


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“The Volcano’s Wife” (2015) by the widow and daughter of Northern District Commissioner Cecil Cowley who perished with his son when Mt Lamington erupted in 1951 says the official death toll was 4,000 not including children, but teams tending the burn victims estimated it closer to 13,000 (page 136).

“Fire Mountains of the Islands” (2013) states “a more accurate number will never be known” (page 159).

More on Oro Province from “Fire Mountains of the Islands” pages 361-3 and 373: download for free PDF 15.2MB which opens

“Historically or potentially active volcanoes have caused justifiable concern for the safety and livelihoods of local communities. These include … Goropu (and) Victory … (an) example of (a) ‘sleeper’ volcano … capable of producing eruptions larger than when … last active in the nineteenth century”.

“High coastal volcanoes such as … Victory … could produce major gravitational collapses and widespread tsunamis in the future, or else calderas, together with large accompanying eruptions”.

“Evacuations of people from active volcanic areas undoubtedly took place before 1937 — for example, at Victory in the 1880s — but little if anything is known about them. Gorupu 1943 … evacuations took place without them first being declared by authorities … where the actual outbreak of an unexpected volcanic eruption triggered the movement of people away from a volcano to places of greater safety, in most cases immediately. Authorities in all … cases played no part in disaster-mitigation efforts before the outbreak of eruptions”.

“Legislation to prevent development in areas vulnerable to natural hazards can be productive… Scientists, engineers, technicians and town planners also can consider DRR (Disaster-Risk Reduction) issues when designing the placement and construction of roads and bearing in mind evacuation routes to predetermined refuges … and critical infrastructure such as … airports and harbours … At-risk communities can practice prescribed evacuations”.

After Cyclone “Hannah” devastated Tufi’s Cape Nelson area in May 1972 I helped with the tremendous task of ongoing relief work.

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