Mount Sinabung Eruption Forces Evacuation of Thousands

Mount Sinabung

Mount Sinabung on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is erupting, and has already forced the evacuation of thousands. At least three thousand people have been forced to evacuate since the volcano entered into a period of activity on June 2. Throughout Monday, 1,200 inhabitants living near the slopes of Mount Sinabung fled, and the danger level for the volcano is now at its highest level.

Mount Sinabung had been dormant for over 400 years, until 2010, when the volcano woke up. It has been on-again, off-again active since then, and scientists are concerned that it might continue to erupt periodically for the next several weeks. Since 2013, approximately 10,000 villagers have been forced to evacuate their homes because the volcano is in a very active stage.

Besides the hot ash and potential danger of pyroclastic flows of hot ash and rock speeding down the slopes of Mount Sinabung threatening the lives of everybody in the vicinity, the eruptions have also destroyed farmland. The land will eventually recover, and the soil will be the richer for the eruptions; but, for now, the eruption of the volcano is spelling economic hard times for the people who live near it.

The current eruption of Mount Sinabung has forced thousands of villagers to leave their homes and thousands more will likely be forced to evacuate in the coming weeks, according to government officials.

Pyroclastic flows are the sort that doomed Pompeii and Herculaneum when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and buried people there alive, leaving statues for tourists of today to marvel at. Many of the people who were entombed there had already perished, due to the super-heated air and poisonous gasses They are accompanied by hot ash and poisonous gasses. The remains of at least 1,5000 people have so far been discovered due to that pyroclastic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. On Monday, June 15, there were at least 28 of these dangerous flows that surged down the slopes of Mount Sinabung.

The worst of the continued eruptions might be yet to come, as Indonesian government volcanologist Gede Suantika observed that magma was piling up and creating a lava dome on Mount Sinabung. Such lava domes generally are soon to collapse, and when they do, an avalanche of shattered lava fragments, volcanic gas, and heated air results. An ash-cloud surge forms in front of and above the pyroclastic flow and the results can prove to be very deadly.

Last February, when pyroclastic flows from Mount Sinabung struck nearby villages, 14 or more people were killed. It is difficult to determine exactly how many people died. It is often impossible to distinguish the missing from the dead under such drastic circumstances. An article in International Business Times UK put the number of people who died then at 16.

Asep Sukarna, a local military commander, told AFP that besides the evacuation of two villages containing 1,274 people on Monday, the government plans “to evacuate five to six more villages in the coming days.” Sukarna stated “that’s around 2,500 residents.”

Earlier this June, Deri Alhidayat, an officer at the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center in Indonesia, said that his observation post detected more than 100 avalanche earthquakes caused by the deadly volcano’s most recent period of eruptions. The pyroclastic eruptions of Mount Sinabung have forced thousands to evacuate their homes and villages, as the overall alert level was raised to the fourth level out of four, “caution.” Fortunately, no injuries or deaths have so far been reported due to Mount Sinabung’s recent period of activity beginning on June 2, 2015.

Written By Douglas Cobb

BBC News: Sinabung eruption: Thousands flee Indonesia volcano
International Business Times UK: Indonesia: Thousands flee
volcanic eruption
Sky News Australia: Mass evacuations in Indonesian Volcano alert
USGS: Dome Collapses Generate Pyroclastic Flows, Unzen Volcano, Japan

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