Sunday, May 24, 2009

Residents told not to panic as volcano spews ash

Coastal residents living close to Mount Anak Krakatau, off the Sunda Strait in Lampung, have evacuated to Bandarlampung out of fear of an imminent eruption of the volcano due to increased volcanic activity, despite the fact that its alert status remains at two, our of four.

Sonhaji, 45, a resident of Bawang village, Punduh Pidada district in South Lampung, said he took his family to his relative’s house in Bandarlampung on April 18, as he was afraid Mount Anak Krakatau would have a major eruption, as it has been producing small eruptions over the past week.

“The distance between our village and Anak Krakatau is more than three miles, but the sound of eruption that it produces is very loud, like the sound of a cannon in the middle of the sea,” he said.

“So far it has never emitted such loud blasts and we have been observing that it has often discharged molten lava.”

Sonhaji said fishermen had been afraid to fish around the volcano and the Sunda Strait over the past week.

Residents in Punduh Pidada say they have not heard eruptions as huge as those over the past week since Anak Krakatau was classified as active.

South Lampung Regent Wendy Melfa said his office is coordinating with the Natural Disaster Mitigation Agency in anticipation of the possibility of an eruption.

“The status of the volcano remains alert as of now, but we are helping people to evacuate because they are terrified,” Wendy said.

“We have also informed islanders around the volcano not to panic.”

The Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) in Bandung has set the status of the volcano, situated east in the Sunda Strait, as alert. The last time it showed signs of activity was in mid February, when it erupted up to three times a day.

The seismograph at the Anak Krakatau observation post in Hargopancuran village, Rajabasa district, South Lampung, has recorded 126 eruptions weekly, including 23 deep underground, 82 shallow and 149 hot cloud discharges.

In Bandung, chief of the center’s volcano monitoring team, Muhammad Hendrasto, called on residents not to panic.

“Its activities have yet to increase the current alert level,” he said.

Visual observation from the Pasauran post in Cinangka district, Serang regency in Banten shows greyish ash formations between 200 an 800 meters high.

The formation is monitored by the MITSAT satellite of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Qantas pilots have also reported the ash formations.

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