Evacuation Plans Prepped as Mount Tambora Alert Level Is Raised
Fitri R. & Antara
Dompu, West Nusa Tenggara. Provincial authorities raised the alert level of Mount Tambora to the second-highest available as observers noted an increase of volcanic activity in the volatile mountain.
“On August 30, we recorded seven volcanic earthquakes and since Sept. 8 the frequency of the quakes rose substantially, to between 12 and 16 per day,” Husnuddin, head of the West Nusa Tenggara Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.
The BPBD chief said a team of observers had been immediately deployed to Mount Tambora.
The volcano, which was the site of the world’s deadliest eruption on record, showed no apparent visual signs of any upcoming eruption, but data collected on mechanical instruments gave cause for concern.
“We still hope Mount Tambora’s alert level will not increase further. We hope we can lower the status of the volcano. Let us all pray everything will return to normal,” Husnuddin said.
Abdul Haris from the Mount Tambora observatory station said the heightened alert status meant an eight-kilometer exclusion zone was being imposed.
“We fear there will be toxic gas as a direct result of the increased activity,” he said.
Husnuddin said the BPBD swiftly met with leaders of the three districts surrounding the volcano — Dompu, Bima and Sumbawa.
The agency also held talks with the leadership of Pekat and Tambora, two Dompu subdistricts near Tambora’s crater, to discuss possible evacuation plans if the alert status reaches the highest level. The agency also had identified locations for possible shelters to house people living around the volcano.
There are four villages in the two subdistricts that are about eight kilometers from the crater.
The BPBD requested several organizations be on stand-by, including the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) and the country’s Armed Forces, which have already deployed officials to several response stations in the two subdistricts.
Two main evacuation routes for people in the four villages have also been identified.
The volcano’s April 10, 1815, eruption killed more than 90,000 people, including some who died from famine and disease in the aftermath of the event. It is estimated to have had a Volcanic Explosivity Index value of seven, the only such explosion since the Hatepe eruption in New Zealand in the year 180, and only the fifth in human history.
Classified as a “supercolossal event,” Tambora’s 1815 eruption ejected immense amounts of volcanic dust into the upper atmosphere, significantly impacting the global climate for many years afterward. In Indonesia, the volcano’s roar could be heard more than 800 miles away.
Meanwhile, in North Sulawesi, Mount Lokon continued to be a concern, two months after it first erupted. Ferry, an observer at the Lokon volcano observation station said that from midnight to 6 a.m. on Sunday, Lokon erupted seven times, sending debris up to 350 meters from the edge of the crater.
The observation post also recorded one tectonic quake and two volcanic quakes on Sunday morning. On Saturday, observers recorded more than 20 volcanic quakes.
“The activity of Mount Lokon is still not yet back to normal,” Ferry said, adding that people there were still being warned against returning home.