In­done­sian vol­cano erupts again, many evac­u­ated

The Pak Banker - - International -

SUKA NALU: An In­done­sian vol­cano, in­ac­tive for four cen­turies, erupted again on Mon­day, pitch­ing ash two km (1.5 miles) into the air and send­ing nearby res­i­dents scur­ry­ing from their homes.

Vil­lages were emp­ty­ing fast near Mount Sinabung on the north of Su­ma­tra is­land, leav­ing be­hind only of­fi­cials from the bureau of me­te­o­rol­ogy and the po­lice. Short-haul flights skirt­ing the vol­cano were de­layed.

Surono, head of In­done­sia's vul­canol­ogy cen­tre, told Reuters Mon­day's erup­tion was more pow­er­ful than the first a day ear­lier.

"Ear­lier to­day was an­other erup­tion at 6.30 a.m., send­ing out smoke as high as two km, more or less," he told Reuters.

A Reuters pho­tog­ra­pher said he saw plumes of smoke ris­ing from the 2,460-me­tre vol­cano af­ter the sec­ond erup­tion. In­ac­tive since 1600, it had been rum­bling for sev­eral days.

"I saw some hot pieces of vol­canic rock come out and burn trees in the area," he said. A smell of sul­phur per­vaded the air as res­i­dents moved out of their homes to tem­po­rary shel­ters.

In­done­sia is on the so­called Pa­cific Rim of Fire, an arc of vol­ca­noes and ge­o­log­i­cal fault lines trig­ger­ing fre­quent earth­quakes around the Pa­cific Basin. The erup­tion trig­gered the high­est red vol­cano alert.

About 21,000 peo­ple had been evac­u­ated from largely farm­ing ar­eas. Many fled to Medan, 50 km (30 miles), In­done­sia's third-largest city, north­east of the vol­cano. Of­fi­cials said much of the move­ment was un­nec­es­sary.

"Peo­ple have been evac­u­ated from ar­eas within a six km (four-mile) ra­dius of the vol­cano," vul­ca­nol­o­gist Surono said. "Be­yond six km it is safe, but there has still been a lot of panic among peo­ple here who don't un­der­stand that."

He said it was im­pos­si­ble to know when the erup­tions would stop, but it was un­likely vol­canic dust would drift to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

"Here, it is three mil­lime­tres (1/8 of an inch) thick on the leaves of plants," he said.

"It has the po­ten­tial to dam­age peo­ple's res­pi­ra­tory tracts, but in my life­time of study­ing vol­ca­noes I have never heard of any­one dy­ing from in­hal­ing vol­canic ash."

An­dang San­toso, a spokesman for the govern­ment air agency PT Angkasa Pura II, said ma­jor flight itin­er­ar­ies were un­af­fected.

"How­ever, there have been de­lays on the route be­tween Medan and Si­bolga," a town south of the vol­cano, he told Reuters in a tele­phone text mes­sage. -PB News

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