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Residents evacuated as previously dormant volcano erupts in Papua New Guinea

A dormant volcano in Papua New Guinea has begun spewing ash into the air for the first time in known history. 

The volcano on Kadovar Island, is a 365-metre-tall volcano on the north coast of Papua New Guinea, it was thought to be dormant before it began to erupt on January 5.

The eruption has forced the evacuation of more than 600 residents, reports news.com.au. 

The Rabaul Volcanological Observatory told Loop PNG the eruption could "become explosive".

"Due to the steepness of the island, landslides are possible and together with the explosive nature of the magma, tsunamis may be generated," a spokesperson for the observatory said.

The volcanic island is approximately 24 kilometres from the northern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea.

The local government has described the volcanic activity as a "critical situation" while around 50 per cent of the island is reportedly covered by lava.