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Volcanic predictions for Australia -

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ELEANOR HALL: A Melbourne geologist is warning that Australia is long overdue for a volcanic
eruption and he says emergency authorities need to be better prepared.

Associate Professor Bernie Joyce is one of Australia's top geologists and he says that parts of
Victoria, South Australia and Queensland are all at risk. He says he can't predict when new sites
could erupt but that communities should develop emergency response plans.

Rachael Brown has our report.

RACHAEL BROWN: Associate Professor Bernie Joyce has been studying the landforms of western
Victoria, to see what clues they hold about future volcanic risk. He says any future eruptions are
unlikely to come from existing volcanoes but rather from new sites nearby.

BERNIE JOYCE: It's far western Victoria, starting somewhere about Colac, through Camperdown,
Warrnambool, across to the border and then in south-eastern South Australia, the area around Mount
Gambier and Mount Shank, both of which are quite young volcanoes.

Then in Queensland there is a range of areas starting inland from Townsville where there have been
some recent activity and it stretches all the way up to Cook Town. One area of particular interest
is the Atherton Tableland where there are crater lakes very like Mount Gambier.

RACHAEL BROWN: Associate Professor Joyce says for the past 40, 000 years, new volcanoes in such
areas have erupted about every 2,000 years, which means the next one could be near.

BERNIE JOYCE: Given that Mount Gambier, our youngest known one, erupted 5,000 years ago, we could
be considered as overdue.

RACHAEL BROWN: He says while many eruptions are small and short lived, some have the potential to
blanket the country for up to 10 kilometres in ash, like the steam-driven explosion of South
Australia's Mount Gambier; or there are others, like Victoria's Mount Elephant thousands of years
ago, that produced slow lava flows, similar to the ones in Hawaii that are tourist attractions.

BERNIE JOYCE: The Mount Elephant type often produce lava flows and these can spread out for long
distances running down valleys, destroying roads and railway bridges, destroying power lines and
damming the water systems so that you end up with lakes which then can break out at some other
stage and also starting fires so the possibility of grass and forest fires in western Victoria from
lava flows would be something that you would have to watch continuously.

RACHAEL BROWN: And as you'd be aware most of the focus over the last couple of years especially in
Victoria has been on response to bushfires. Do you think emergency management organisations should
start looking towards response plans for volcano?

BERNIE JOYCE: We don't know that it is going to happen soon. We don't know when it will happen.
There wouldn't be very much warning. There hasn't been in other countries where these sort of small
volcanoes, in Mexico and Iceland, have started.

They are almost overnight things so when it happens you would need to have some information ready.
You would need to have some scenarios in mind. You would need to know who to contact and perhaps
even to contact people from overseas who have been working on these sort of things.

You need to get the experts in. People have, in other countries, tried to divert lava flows by
cooling them with water, by building walls to make them go in another direction, by breaking the
sides of the lava flows with explosives to try and get them to come out therefore not continue down
the valley where they are heading.

So these are the techniques we would need to get from overseas and not ones that we have readily
available in Australia.

RACHAEL BROWN: Associate Professor Joyce says Australia could take its lead from New Zealand, which
has similar volcano types, and which devotes a website, publicity and education to community risk
information.

ELEANOR HALL: Rachael Brown reporting.