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Indonesia: Over 2,100 evacuated as gigantic volcanic eruptions triggers tsunami alert

At least three volcanic eruptions were recorded at Mount Ruang since Friday afternoon, with a maximum height of 1,200 metres. More than 11,000 have been told to leave their homes in the affected area, as airports were closed.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Jakarta Published on: April 20, 2024 14:16 IST
Indonesia volcano, people evacuated
Image Source : REUTERS (FILE) Mount Ruang has had three volcanic eruptions since Friday.

Jakarta: More than 2,100 people have been evacuated in Indonesia's Sulawesi island on Friday amid rising dangers of spreading ash, falling rocks, hot volcanic clouds and the danger of a tsunami. Indonesia's Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation recorded at least three eruptions since Friday afternoon, with the maximum height of the eruption column reaching 1,200 meters (3,900 feet).

The massive volcanic eruptions from Mount Ruang have led to the temporary closure of an international airport in Manado city, located less than 100 km from the volcano. Satellite imagery from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency shows the ash has spread to the west, northwest, northeast and southeast, covering Manado and North Minahasa, said Indonesia's Transportation Ministry.

“We are still monitoring developments in the eruption of Mount Ruang and coordinating with relevant stakeholders … to anticipate the necessary actions to ensure flight safety, security and comfort,” said Ambar Suryoko, head of the regional airport authority. This came after 11,000 people were told to leave their homes in the affected area.

Tsunami threat rises due to volcano

Houses, roads and other buildings were covered by grey volcanic ash, and many roofs were broken by debris spewed from the eruption. Officials worry that part of the volcano could collapse into the sea and cause a tsunami, as happened in an eruption there in 1871. There have been at least five eruptions on Wednesday, causing the Centre for Volcanology to issue its highest level of alert.

The observation from the agency on Friday said white smoke was rising from the main crater with medium to thick intensity. East of the volcano, Tagulandang Island could be at risk if a collapse occurred. Its residents were among those being told to evacuate. Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency said residents would be relocated to Manado, a journey of 6 hours by boat.

Scientists are still studying the behaviour of volcanic lightning. "Each of these eruptions that produce lightning helps us better understand what is happening in the eruptive plume and helps us understand our planet better," said Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Indonesia is prone to volcanic activities

At least 800 residents left the area earlier on Wednesday. Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, has 120 active volcanoes. It is prone to volcanic activity because it sits along the “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.

Authorities urged tourists and others to stay at least 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) from the 725-meter (2,378-foot) Ruang volcano. Transport authorities shut the airport in the provincial capital of Manado to protect against the showers of ash from the eruption. Budget airline Air Asia cancelled flights with nine airports in East Malaysia and Brunei after aviation authorities warned of a safety threat.

In 2018, the eruption of Indonesia's Anak Krakatau volcano caused a tsunami along the coasts of Sumatra and Java after parts of the mountain fell into the ocean, killing 430 people.

(with inputs from agencies)

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