Today marks the 23rd Anniversary of the Tavurvur and Vulcan Volcanoes that erupted simultaneously and devastated Rabaul town on 19th September 1994.
Over the weekend, men, women and children flocked into the volcanic town of Rabaul for an early celebration of the anniversary.
The annual event that happens every September, to celebrate the existence of Rabaul town, amidst the continuous volcano adversities.
On the 19th of September 1994, as the country was coming to the end of the 19th Independence anniversary celebrations, Tavurvur and Vulcan volcanoes erupted, and devastated the town.
For many who have lived on, it is a stark reminder of what happened on that day when the two menacing volcanoes erupted and destroyed their town and villages, 23 years ago.
“It was very difficult to know what to do. The earthquakes were getting more violent and we knew something bad was going to happen,” said Susan McGrade, a long time resident of Rabaul Town.
Rabaul today is a ghost town-once known as the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ is now the Pacific’s Pompeii and is not as busy as it was before it was brought to its knees.
The remnants of structures are protruding from the volcanic ashes that have accumulated over the last two decades.
The 1994 volcanic eruption was the second time that the town fell victim to a volcanic eruption and the third time, that it suffered extensive damages.
No lives were lost, as the people paid very close attention to the warnings issued by the provincial disaster office on the days leading to the eruptions.
“The most amazing experience was the silence… from going from a busy town to a ghost town overnight. I will never forget that,” Susan recalled.
The two volcanoes are not giving off emissions.
The vegetation have returned, covering the once barren land. The frangipani shrub being the first signs of life.
The bloom of the plant now used as a symbol for rebirth, billboards and businesses; New Guinea Island’s botanical equivalent of the mythical Phoenix.
But Volcanologists say that does not make it any safer.
The Rabaul people know all too well that the town and their villages will not be revived easily.
Many still returned and continue to live their lives as usual, oblivious to the recent past.
Most chose not to leave.