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Posts Tagged ‘Mount Merapi’

Indonesia volcano shoots new blast; 21 more rumble!

Posted by Admin on November 2, 2010

Reuters – Mount Merapi volcano spews smoke as seen from Deles village in Klaten, near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, …

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – Deafening explosions of hot gas rattled evacuees miles (kilometers) from an Indonesian volcano Monday, the latest eruption in a deadly week. The country reported increased rumblings at 21 other active mountains, raising questions about what’s causing the uptick along some of the world’s most prolific fault lines.

No new casualties were reported in Mount Merapi’s new blast, which came as Indonesia also struggles to respond to an earthquake-generated tsunami that devastated a remote chain of islands. The two disasters unfolding on opposite ends of country have killed nearly 500 people and strained the government’s emergency response network. In both events, the military has been called in to help.

Merapi has killed 38 people since it started erupting a week ago. Monitoring officials have also raised alert levels at some of the 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, with two under watch for possible eruption within two weeks and 19 showing increased activity — more than double the usual number on the watch list, an official said.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanos because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the western and eastern Pacific. Scientists could not say for certain what was causing the increased volcanic activity, though two theorized the earth’s tectonic plates could be realigning and one noted growing evidence that volcanos can affect one other.

About 69,000 villagers have been evacuated from the area around Merapi’s once-fertile slopes — now blanketed by gray ash — in central Java, 250 miles (400 kilometers) east of Jakarta, the capital.

Booming explosions sounded during Monday’s eruption, which shot massive clouds from the glowing cauldron and sent ash cascading nearly four miles (six kilometers) down the southeastern slopes, said Subrandrio, an official in charge of monitoring Merapi’s activity.

Even in the crowded government camps, miles (kilometers) away from the mountain, the sound of the explosions sent evacuees scurrying for shelter.

More than 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the west, meanwhile, a C-130 transport plane, six helicopters and four motorized boats were ferrying aid to the most distant corners of the Mentawai Islands, where last week’s tsunami destroyed hundreds of homes, schools, churches and mosques. The tsunami death toll stood at 431 Monday, the National Disaster Management Agency said on its website.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said relief efforts must be sped up, expressing dismay that it took days for aid to reach the isolated islands, though he acknowledged that violent storms were largely to blame.

Last week’s killer wave was triggered a 7.7-magnitude earthquake along the same fault that caused the 2004 temblor and tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. The fault line, which runs the length of the west coast of Sumatra island, is the meeting point of the two of the Earth’s dozen major plates, which have been pushing against and under each other for millions of years, causing huge stresses to build up.

Both earthquakes and volcanos can result from the release of these stresses. As plates slide against or under each other, molten rock can break the surface via a volcano or the energy can be released in an earthquake.

The government has raised alert levels of 21 other volcanos to the second- and third- highest levels in the last two months because they have shown an increase in activity, said Syamsul Rizal, a state volcanologist, said Monday. Many of those are already rumbling and belching out heavy black ash.

Indonesia has several volcanos smoldering at any given time, but another government volcanologist, Gede Swantika, said that normally only five to 10 would be at the third-highest alert level — which indicates an increase in seismic activity and visible changes in the crater. It is rare for any to be at second-highest — which signifies an eruption is possible within two weeks.

He said monitors noticed more volcanos were exhibiting seismic activity starting Sept. 2.

Geophysicist Pall Einarsson of the University of Iceland said that such an increase could be an indication that some of the volcanos — if any are very close — could be affecting one another. He said this idea is a new one for volcanologists, but they are increasingly seeing evidence of interplay between neighboring mountains.

Geologist Brent McInnes said as he hadn’t seen the raw data but would find such a rash of volcanic activity significant.

“If it’s true that there are over 20 volcanos demonstrating increased levels of seismic activity, then that is something we should pay attention to,” said McInnes, a professor at Australia’s Curtin University who has done extensive volcanic research in Indonesia.

He said such an increase could indicate “a major plate restructuring” — a major shift in the plates’ position, rather than simply the usual jostling. “That would be significant.”

But seismologists also caution that while eruption patterns can be studied, neither earthquakes nor volcanos can be predicted with any precision.

“My theory is that it is just a normal, random fluctuation of volcanic activity,” said John Ebel, professor of geophysics at Boston University.

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Associated Press writers Thomas Wagner in London, Achmad Ibrahim in the Mentawai islands and Kay Johnson, Niniek Karmini, Irwan Firdaus, Ali Kotarumalos and Kristen Gelineau in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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Indonesian volcano erupts, 20 injured by hot ash

Posted by Admin on October 26, 2010

A villager watches Mount Merapi in Kaliadem, ...

By SLAMET RIYADI, Associated Press – 35 mins ago

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – Indonesia’s most volatile volcano erupted Tuesday after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful explosion in years. A 2-month-old baby reportedly died as panicked villagers fled the area.

Smoke poured out of Mount Merapi, obscuring its cone, according to footage from the private station, MetroTV. Up to 20 people were injured by the hot ash spewing from volcano, said an AP reporter who saw them being taken away for treatment. One burn victim’s skin was coated in the gray powder, which also blanketed vehicles in the area.

Some 11,400 villagers who live on the 9,737-foot (2,968-meter-) high mountain were urged to evacuate, but only those within four miles (seven kilometers) of the crater were forced by authorities to do so. Most of those who fled were the elderly and children. Some adults said they decided to stay to tend to homes and farms on the fertile slopes.

There are fears that the current activity could foreshadow a much more destructive explosion in the coming weeks or months, though it is possible, too, that the volcano will settle back down after a slow, long period of letting off steam.

As they contended with the volcano, Indonesian officials were also trying to assess the impact of Monday’s 7.7-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from Merapi. The temblor caused a tsunami that left hundreds dead or missing on a string of remote islands.

MetroTV reported that the baby died when a mother ran in panic after the eruption started. Its report cited a local doctor and showed the mother weeping as the baby was covered with a white blanket at a hospital. The report did not make clear if it was a boy or girl.

Subandriyo, the chief vulcanologist in the area, said the eruption started just before dusk Tuesday. The volcano had rumbled and groaned for hours.

“There was a thunderous rumble that went on for ages, maybe 15 minutes,” said Sukamto, a farmer who by nightfall had yet to abandon his home on the slopes. “Then huge plumes of hot ash started shooting up into the air.”

Scientists have warned the pressure building beneath the dome could presage one of the biggest eruptions in years at Merapi, literally Mountain of Fire, which lies on the main island of Java, some 310 miles (500 kilometers) southeast of the capital Jakarta.

The alert level for Merapi has been raised to its highest level.

“The energy is building up. … We hope it will release slowly,” government volcanologist Surono told reporters. “Otherwise, we’re looking at a potentially huge eruption, bigger than anything we’ve seen in years.”

In 2006, an avalanche of blistering gases androck fragments raced down the volcano and killed two people. A similar eruption in 1994 killed 60 people, and 1,300 people died in a 1930 blast.

This vast archipelago is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity due to its location on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire — a series of faultlines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

There are more than 129 active volcanos to watch in Indonesia, which is spread across 17,500 islands.

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Associated Press writer Irwan Firdaus contributed to this report from Jakarta.

 

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