Friday, April 15, 2005

Active volcanoes placed under watch for possible volcano eruptions

INDONESIA has placed 79 active volcanoes on close watch following heightened volcanic activity as massive aftershocks continued to hit Sumatra island daily since the Dec 26 earthquake.

Some scientists fear the seismic activity has the potential to trigger a major eruption while the government has urged the public to remain calm. Indonesia has the world's largest number of active volcanoes with 129 and is part of the notorious Pacific "Ring of Fire" fault line which stretches from quake prone Japan, through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific Basin. "There are 79 volcanoes which need to be closely-watched and they are being monitored by all observation posts," vulcanologist Wimpy S. Cecep, told the New Straits Times.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people panicked and fled from the slopes of Mount Talang, Solok Regency, West Sumatra when the 2,572-metre volcano spewed hot ash as high as 10 metres to blanket five villages. No casualties were reported.

On Wednesday, two volcanoes reported heightened activity in West Java. Tangkuban Perahu located near Bandung, the venue of the forthcoming Asian-African Summit next week where 50 Heads of States will gather, recorded increased activity and emitted gas yesterday. Anak Krakatau, the "child" of the legendary Krakatoa which erupted in 1883, triggering a massive tsunami which killed tens of thousands, was put on alert yesterday after 32 tremors rattled the volcano's crater. Cecep said the two volcanoes were unlikely to blow-up on a large scale to spew ash over a large area. "If there should be any eruptions, it would be localised. The magma and hot ash would spread around an area of two to three kilometres. "

For Krakatau, if it should erupt, the magma will flow only to the edge of the sea. "In the case Tangkuban Perahu, any heightened activity will will move the magma within its crater." Cecep said it was difficult to determine when and if the volcanoes would erupt and the daily aftershocks and massive earthquakes which have hit the country does not necessarily mean it would automatically trigger more volcanic eruptions. "In Aceh, there are three active volcanoes. "After the massive earthquake of Dec 26, there was no increase in activity.

"Earthquakes can be a factor in triggering magma activity but it does not necessary always be the case," he added.

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