Volcanic eruption in Papua New Guinea causes flight diversions

SYDNEY Fri Aug 29, 2014 12:47am EDT

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A volcanic eruption in Papua New Guinea on Friday sent smoke and ash spewing high over the South Pacific island nation, leading some aircraft to alter their flight paths.

Mount Tavurvur on East New Britain Island erupted hours before dawn, a bulletin from the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory said.

There have been no reports of injuries.

Qantas said that it was altering the path of a handful of international flights in the area, but that it would add only about five minutes to their scheduled time.

"Flight paths between Sydney and Narita (Tokyo) and Sydney and Shanghai have been altered as a result of the volcanic ash cloud over Rabaul in eastern Papua New Guinea," Qantas spokeswoman Sarah Algar told Reuters.

"The QF21, QF22 and QF130 will now fly over central Papua New Guinea to avoid the cloud."

Authorities have not issued an evacuation order for the town closest to the volcano, Rabaul, which was destroyed in 1994 during a previous but more severe eruption.

"People still live here, we have to get on with our daily lives," Rabaul Hotel employee Susie McGrade told Australia's ABC radio.

"We're up on the rooves, cleaning off the ash, we've got to save our property, try and get back to normal, so what can we do? We've got no where else to go."

Iceland issued its highest alert level for a volcano on Friday. Bardarbunga started rumbling about a week ago, signaling trouble for air travel in northern Europe. In 2010, an ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano closed much of Europe's airspace for six days.

(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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