According to the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), a volcano in the west of Indonesia erupted on two successive occasions this Sunday, spewing intensely hot ash and rock seven kilometers into the air.
The volcano in question is Mount Sinabung, a composite volcano, comprising of andesite and dacite igneous rock. Situated in the Karo plateau of North Sumatra, Indonesia, it was just over a month ago that Mount Sinabung blasted back to life, for the first time in three years. Since September, the volcano has been intermittently erupting ever since.
Early Sunday morning, it resumed activity once more, discharging an enormous column of ash four miles into the air and darkening the Indonesian skies. The volcano then erupted on a second occasion, later on during the day.
Police officials started herding local villagers away from their homes, focusing their efforts to within a three-kilometer radius around Mount Sinabung. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a National Disaster Agency spokesperson, briefly talked about the ongoing emergency rescue efforts:
“1,293 residents living around Mount Sinabung were evacuated to safer areas. The number of evacuees will rise.”
Over 15,000 individuals were forced to evacuate the region in September, when the volcano originally rumbled back to life.
Meanwhile, following Sunday’s latest eruption, there have been no reports of any fatalities or injuries.
Mounting Volcanic Activity
Mount Sinabung has been demonstrating ever-growing activity over the last three years, recently erupting during the months of August and September of 2010. During the August incident, a minor eruption transpired after a number of days of persistent rumbling, prompting evacuation of approximately 12,000 local residents, spanning a total of 14 villages populated around the volcano. Ash was cast some 1.5 kilometers high into the atmosphere, whilst lava was seen trickling from its center.
Prior to this, the volcano had remained dormant for hundreds of years, with activity not witnessed since the 1600s. With the assistance of emergency response officials, no residents were injured, following the event.
Three further eruptions were triggered the following month, two of which occurred Sept. 3. According to the Jakarta Post, the first took place in the early hours of the morning. The ferocious episode saw ash soaring three kilometers into the air, and forced residents to flee their homes. The second eruption was felt much later on in the evening, with concomitant earthquakes detected nearby Mount Sinabung.
On Tuesday Sept. 7, the increasingly unstable volcano alarmed the region’s authorities, with the largest and most powerful eruption recorded, since activity had first resumed in 2010. The country’s leading volcanologist and geologist, Dr. Terimakasih Pak Surono, had this to say:
“The volcano took its longest time [to erupt], and at the same time this is the most powerful [eruption].”
According to Surono, the thunderous flare-up could be heard from a distance of eight miles away. The moment was proceeded by hours of tremors, as the frightened residents took refuge in packed evacuation centers.
Heavy rain mixed with plumes of ash, culminating in muddy precipitation, which fell to create a thick coating over buildings and trees, cutting off electricity to one of the villages.
The Pacific Ring of Fire
Mount Sinabung is located near the infamous “Pacific Ring of Fire,” where tectonic activity is common. The Ring of Fire has 452 volcanoes, constituting three quarters of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. However, Indonesia is home to some of the most lively volcanoes.
In August of this year, five people were killed and hundreds evacuated when a volcano erupted on an island in the East Nusa Tenggara province. One of the worst incidents in recent times was seen after Mount Merapi, the country’s most active volcano located near the city of Yogyakarta, claimed the lives of over 350 local residents, following a series of highly brutal eruptions during 2010.
The authorities have raised the volcano’s status to the second-highest level available, reflecting its increasing activity and danger.
During a telephone conversation with the Bangkok Post, Nugroho reflects upon the ongoing fallout from Mount Sinabung’s violent eruption:
“Tremors are still occurring and thick black clouds are still being spewed.”
By James Fenner