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01 August 2011

Papua New Guinea 01/08/2011 earthquake : 2,000 people living on Bam (Biem) volcano island at extreme risk

A picture of BAM Island almost above the epicenter of this earthquake. The island looks uninhabited, but a reader reports of 2,000 islanders and also GDACS and USGS reports are talking about hundreds of people living here. These people have experienced severe to extreme shaking ! (Panoramio picture courtesy a_schneider -

IMPORTANT UPDATE : We received this message from Jason and Toni Stuart, reporting out of Wewak, Papua New Guinea

The Brandon Buser and Thomas Depner families are all currently in Wewak and safe.

UPDATE 10:54 UTC : Another message out of Wewak, PNG (134 km from the epicenter) and the writer of the message below :  “I am the one who wrote earlier about being in the concrete floored building.  I have friends scheduled to arrive in Wewak in the next 24 hours from Biem Island by boat. “.

UPDATE 09:12 UTC : We are hoping that the Missionary stations on the island will bring news asap.
UPDATE 09:10 UTC : It is currently dark in Papua New Guinea and as the island is poor, has no rescue helicopters or other modern rescue equipment, news has not to be expected soon.
UPDATE 08:31 UTC : We have decided to call this earthquake a CatDat red earthquake, as we expect that a number of the bigger on poles constructed huts will be leveled (the contrary would be a miracle).

Earthquake Overview : A very strong shallow magnitude 6.8 earthquake occurred close to the coast of Papua New Guinea on Monday August 1 at 9:38 local time. Soon after the earthquake, the Pacific tsunami and Warning Center issued a statement that NO widespread tsunami is expected from this earthquake. The epicenter of the earthquake is only 6 km from Bam (Biem) volcano island, an island populated by approx. 2,000 indigenous people.

Although there have been 7 damaging CATDAT earthquakes within 160km of the epicentre in the last 50 years, 1 of which killing 18 people, they have all been closer to shore. The main worry is of course the Biem Islands, the southernmost of the Shouten Islands. Bam is one of the most active volcanoes in Papua New Guinea. The island is located 55km NNE of the mouth of the Sepik River. Bam is oval shaped, 2.4 km x 1.6 km, and covers 6 sq km in area. There are two peaks. The NW peak is the volcano summit, and the SE peak is slightly lower, according to John Seach.

3,100 people live on Bam (Biem) according to one missionary website .
A number of missionaries have travelled there in the last few years.
One of these, Brandon Buser, estimates that 2,000 people live there. As of 2008, the community on the island decided to convert to Christianity in the Biem language. If anyone has been on the island, it would be useful to know the building types used there, whether the traditional bamboo/wood hut, or whether volcanic rock is used. We now see using the below video, that the traditional wood hut is the most common.

- Earthquake Report