Friday, August 04, 2006

Indonesian volcano's activity level decreases

Volcanic activity at Indonesia's simmering Mount Karangetang is decreasing but oozing lava still poses a threat for thousands of villagers living around its slopes, officials said Thursday.The volcano, on North Sulawesi's Siau island some 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) northeast of Jakarta, was put on its top alert last month, meaning an imminent eruption is feared.

In the first six hours of Thursday, the crater spewed lava that stretched as far as two kilometres (more than one mile) down the volcano's flanks, Kristianto, a scientist at a monitoring post on Karangetang's slopes, was quoted by AFP as saying.He said that lava sparks shooting from the 1,784-meter (5,850-foot) volcano had eased in the past few days but scientists had not downgraded the alert because it was still spewing lava and shooting occasional sparks.

By early Thursday, almost 2,000 residents from five villages considered most likely to be affected by any eruption were still seeking shelter in a safe zone in the evenings, said provincial spokesman Boy Rompas.Rompas added that there would be concern about possible lava mud floods around Karangetang's slopes if the volcano remained active once the monsoon season begins there in September.Karangetang has recorded 40 eruptions since 1675. It last erupted in 1996, while in 1992, pyroclastic flows killed six people.

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