Mount Sinabung, a volcano in Indonesia, has been active for several months, spewing rock, lava and hot ash as it erupts. Seismic activity had recently decreased and the area was deemed safe, but on Saturday, 14 victims’ lives were claimed when they were hit by ash clouds rolling off the mountainside. The volcano eruption was unexpected and took residents off-guard.
Approximately 30,000 people had been evacuated from the area over the last month and were placed in temporary housing in tents, schools and other federal buildings. Authorities gave 14,000 of them permission to return to their homes just one day before the latest eruption. Their decision was based on the decreased volcanic activity. Eruptions had diminished and were no longer viewed as a threat to residents who lived beyond five kilometers of the crater. In addition, the area was cleared and power had been restored. Once the eruption took place, however, the people were immediately evacuated again.
As the volcano erupted, it sent a blast of hot lava up to 2.8 miles away. The 8,530 foot volcano shot the lava 1.5 miles into the air. It resulted in clouds of hot ash landing in the village. It has claimed 14 lives so far. The victims it hit were in a small village near the volcano’s crater. Early reports noted there were 11 deaths, but authorities in Indonesia now know that the total was higher than the initial count. They also expect the number of victims to rise as they recover bodies from the ash. People are still being reported missing and the darkness makes it difficult to find them. The heat poses a risk for rescue workers, as well.
The village in the area near the volcano is covered in gray ash. People were seen removing bodies from the ash and taking them down the mountainside on bikes. Among those found dead were a television journalist and a teacher and her four high school students who were viewing the volcano from a closer stance. Others were visiting their homes near the crater, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.
Indonesia is known for having the risk of a natural disaster since it is set amidst an arc of volcanoes. Mount Sinabung is one of 130 volcanoes in the area and it has been inactive since September 2013. Located in western Sumatra, Mount Sinabung has been leaking dangerous substances, which have covered the slopes for several months. The last time it was active was in late August and early September of 2010 when it erupted three times in one week. It claimed the lives of two people. Before the eruption in 2010, Mount Sinaburg had not been active for roughly 400 years.
Scientists in Indonesia have not been studying the volcano long enough to predict eruptions with accuracy, despite constantly monitoring it and tracking the activity. Mount Sinaburg contains four craters, but only one has been active and that is responsible for the recent eruption that spewed the hot ash that hit victims in the immediate vicinity.
By Tracy Rose