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Lamington volcano eruptions

stratovolcano 1680 m / 5,512 ft
New Guinea, Papua New Guinea, -8.95°S / 148.15°E
Eruption list: 1951-1956


1951 catastrophic eruption on 21 January
A jeep impaled on broken tree trunks illustrates the destuctive power of the pyroclastic surges generated by Lamington's eruption on 21 January 1958. From Taylor (1958)
A jeep impaled on broken tree trunks illustrates the destuctive power of the pyroclastic surges generated by Lamington's eruption on 21 January 1958. From Taylor (1958)
The eruption of Mt Lamington on Sunday 21 January 1951 was the greatest natural disaster on Australian-administered territory of Papua New Guinea. The eruption destroyed the northern half of the mountain and generated a massive pyroclastic surge, which killed more than 3500 people and destroyed dozens of villages. Survivors said "the smoke was seven miles high and the explosion was like an atom bomb or 1,000 block busters going off together" (Sydney Morning Herald, "N.G. DISASTER - DETAILS" 25 Jan 1958).

The administration was heavily accused of having ignored warnings and not reacted fast enough to prevent the scale of the disaster. The Melbourne Argus newspaper writes on its front page on 25 January 1951 "' .. they warned us too late' SAY WOMEN SURVIVORS" and reports some telephone interviews with survivors who felt that they had not been warned and informed in time. Similarly the Sydney Morning Herald's headline read "Delay in official warning criticised".
The strong demand for a public investigation of the tragedy was never granted by the administration. The District Commissioner, Mr. C. F. Cowley (who was killed during the eruption on Sunday) was quoted to have said a few days before the main explosion, "There is no loss of life nor is there any immediate danger." (Sydney Morning Herald, "N.G. DISASTER - DETAILS" 25 Jan 1958).
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