Alert Levels Rising Along With Smoke and Ash From Marapi
With several volcanoes already displaying increasing activity, another one in West Sumatra belched thick ash and smoke on Tuesday as the government heightened its alert on possible eruptions.
The 2,900-meter-high Mount Marapi volcano in West Sumatra has been producing smoke and thick ash since last month, residents living near the volcano said.
Suparman, who lives near the mountain in Sawah Dangka in the West Sumatran district of Agam, told Antara that the smoke rose to nearly 200 meters above the crater at around 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday.
He said, however, that fog and low hanging clouds largely masked the crater and the rising column of smoke.
Another resident from the same village, Lembang, said that “the smoke spewed by the mountain was black and white but was not clearly noticeable because of the fog.”
Lembang said that since Aug. 3, 2011, the volcano has been repeatedly belching smoke and sulfur-smelling volcanic ash, sometimes up to 1,000 meters into the sky.
He said that ash carried by the winds was reported to have fallen over several districts in the area, including Tanah Datar, Padang Pariaman and Padang Panjang.
The Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency (PVMBG) has raised the status of the volcano to the caution level, or the first alert level above normal..
Marapi is one of several active volcanoes in West Sumatra. The volcano has shown increased activity in the past year, with occasional eruptions since August 2011. Early this year, authorities established a three-kilometer exclusion zone around the crater after the alert status for the volcano was raised.
Marapi, which should not be confused with Mount Merapi in Central Java, straddles the West Sumatran districts of Agam and Tanah Datar.
On Monday local people reported that Mount Merapi in Central Java also showed increasing activity, with rumblings in the past week.
Merapi last erupted in October 2010, spewing enormous amounts of ash. Pyroclastic flows, fast-moving currents of superheated gas and rock, killed more than 300 people along the heavily populated slopes and forced 350,000 to evacuate.
Meanwhile, with a small eruption still taking place on Mount Lokon in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, authorities there are maintaining alert status for the volcano and have banned all human activities within a 2.5-kilometer radius of the crater.
Farid Sukendar, head of the Lokon volcano observation post, said that the mountain erupted after dusk on Saturday, spewing superheated volcanic material up to 600 meters and ash up to 1,500 meters into the atmosphere.
Mount Soputan, in North Sulawesi’s South Minahasa district, and Mount Karangetang in the Sitaro Islands district, across from the northernmost tip of Sulawesi, remained on a government-ordered standby alert status, just one rung below the most severe alert.
The volcanology office also announced on Monday that it had raised the alert level for Mount Gamalama, on Ternate Island in North Maluku province, to standby.
Gamalama last erupted in December 2011, destroying more than 100 houses and leaving farmers devastated after blankets of ash smothered fruit trees and crops.
Four villagers were confirmed dead in that eruption.