Update [11/17/2013]: Further news from the Jakarta Post indicates that Mount Sinabung has erupted once more, alongside Mount Merapi.
Mount Merapi – whose literal meaning is “Fire Mountain” in Indonesian – is another composite volcano, situated in Central Java. Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia, and has repeatedly erupted, since the mid-1500s.
Merapi was the first volcano to erupt, hurling volcanic ash some 2,000 meters into the skies, causing ash to rain down over the local population. Several hours later, Mount Sinabung then resumed activity, showcasing its most powerful eruption in recent days, as an enormous 8,000 meter column of ash was violently fired into the atmosphere.
Speaking to Xinhua via telephone, Heru Suparwoko, an official at a regional monitoring post for Mount Merapi, briefly described the nature of the incident:
“Mount Merapi erupted at 04:53 local time today [Monday]. The mount was rumbling and has been spewing the ash the [sic] east since.”
Back in 2010, Mount Merapi killed around 350 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of locals, following a spectacularly brutal eruption.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo claims that around 600 families have been assembled – all of whom face possible evacuation. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Transportation Ministry has issued a statement to all airlines, instructing them to avoid airspace around the unstable mountain.
Original Article [11/16/2013]: The Mount Sinabung volcano has erupted, once more, throwing a plume of intensely hot ash 7,000 meters into the atmosphere, forcing a mass exodus of local residents and the destruction of vast areas of plant life and crops.
An Increasingly Unstable Volcano
Two successive eruptions took place throughout Thursday, in the Karo regency of North Sumatra, the first of which occurred during the early hours of the morning. The second eruption was then observed just before midday, at 11:54 a.m., spewing yet more ash to an altitude of 5,000 meters.
On Nov. 11, a pyroclastic flow was seen rolling down its peak, comprising of a fast-moving current of superheated gas and tephra. Since the pyroclastic cloud was first observed, Live Science reports the volcano to be discharging columns of ash into the air, at a frequency of once or twice a day.
A spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Sutopo Purwo, talked to the Jakarta Globe about the ever-evolving situation:
“That makes the second eruption of Mount Sinabung for today… The volcanic activity remains high, so there is still potential for further eruption. There have been no fatalities.”
According to Purwo, approximately 5,535 residents have already been evacuated from the a total of eight different villages throughout the local region. All in all, however, the Indonesian villages reportedly affected by the latest volcanic activity include Bekerah, Berastepu, Gamber, Gurukinayan, Hutagunggung, Laukawar, Sigarang-garang, Simacem. Civilians have been ushered away from their homes towards a series of established evacuation points.
Purwo also advises local residents to avoid the area, since Mount Sinabung remains highly volatile and unstable. The Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation has cautioned against Indonesian citizens approaching the volcano, recommending individuals maintain a distance of at least two miles.
Mount Sinabung is a composite volcano, consisting of andesite and dacite igneous rock. Over the last three years, Sinabung has been demonstrating increasingly volatile activity, with eruptions becoming a common occurrence. The volcano sprang back to life in the months of August and September of 2010. Prior to this, the volcano had remained dormant for hundreds of years, with no activity observed since the 1600s.
On Tuesday Sept. 7, Mount Sinabung unleashed one of its fiercest eruptions yet, greatly concerning the region’s authorities. Indonesia’s top volcanologist and geologist, Dr. Terimakasih Pak Surono, said the moment could be heard from a distance of eight miles away, before going on to briefly discuss its intensity:
“The volcano took its longest time [to erupt], and at the same time this is the most powerful [eruption].”
Thick Ash Destroys Vast Regions of Agriculture
Meanwhile, the persistent eruptions have taken their toll on local farmers. Karo boasts a major agricultural industry, supplying vegetables and fruit to neighboring islands. The
constant evacuation instructions, alongside the outpour of thick ash from the unpredictable volcano, has culminated in damage to crops and delays in their harvest. As a consequence, vegetable and chili prices have increased substantially throughout other parts of Indonesia.
Local farmers have described how the incessant eruptions continue to devastate their crops, upon which their livelihoods depend. Recent events have killed off thousands of hectares of vegetation, including cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes and oranges, to name just a few of the affected produce.
Speaking to the Jakarta Globe, local farmer Makmur Sanjaya, who hails from a subdistrict of Tanah Karo, estimated that the losses could equate to billions of rupiah. He goes on to describe the situation as “very worrying,” rendering some evacuated farmlands inoperable.
By James Fenner