Sunday, June 14, 2009

Indonesia: Residents were evacuated due to volcanic eruption

Residents were evacuated after Mount Karangetang volcano on an eastern Indonesian island began spewing lava and hot ash, threatening a major eruption, officials said Tuesday.

There were no reports of casualties in connection with the increased activity of Mount Karangetang, the officials said.

Volcanologists upgraded the alert status to the highest level on Sunday for the 1,784-metre volcano on the remote island of Siau, part of the Sulawesi chain, about 2,340 kilometres north-east of Jakarta.

Officials said residents were urged to stay outside a radius of 3 kilometres from the crater to avoid possible danger.

Rendy Rompas, an official at North Sulawesi's regional disasters agency, said more than 100 residents from several villages located on the danger zones area had been evacuated, but some of them were allowed to return homes during the day.

Local authorities also ordered a ban on farming and other activity on the slope areas, said Surono, a volcanologist from Indonesia's directorate general of vulcanology, who like many Indonesians goes only by one name. He added that people were also barred from climbing the volcano.

Mount Karangetang is known as the most active volcano in the island chain. Its activity has been increasing for weeks.

The last deadly eruption of Karangetang occurred in 1992, killing at least six villagers.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago nation, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific 'Ring of Fire,' an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. The country has the world's highest density of volcanoes. Of its 500 volcanos, 128 are active and 65 are listed as dangerous.

Alaska: Volcano could erupt again!

Since Mt. Redoubt's last explosion in April, it has quietly continued to ooze lava from its vent, creating a massive hardened dome that could blow at any moment and unleash another ashfall on south central Alaska.The volcano's dome, about the size of nine football fields, has formed a precarious plug over its steaming vent, scientists say. That's kept ash from spewing into the atmosphere and has perhaps led many to believe the volcano's rumblings are over.

But if the dome cracks or collapses, as scientists say it likely will, ash could once again blast into the atmosphere and ground airplanes during Alaska's summer tourist season.

A second worry is that a cracked dome, accompanied by another explosion, would allow hot gas and rock to blast down the mountainside, which would melt snow and ice and once again flood the Drift River valley, as it did in late March.

Scientists estimate the amount of lava comprising the hardened dome is so massive it could fill 11 Louisiana Superdomes. It is roughly as thick as a 65-story building.

Alaska lava is not like Hawaii lava or probably what most people picture as lava, said geologist Allison Payne of the Alaska Volcano Observatory. It's not as fluid. It's thick and sticky, she said.

Gravity or the building of pressure beneath the dome could make it collapse, scientists say.

The lava has been building up for two months. The last time the volcano erupted in 1989 and 1990, a similar dome lasted 36 days before it collapsed and unclogged the vent. "Based on Redoubt's past activity, this is pretty unstable," Payne said.

This eruption has shown similar patterns to the one almost two decades ago, which is why scientists eagerly anticipate more rumblings, Payne said.

But when it could blow is anyone's guess. "It could happen in 10 minutes or a month or not at all," she said.

Indonesia may face eruptive summer

One of Indonesia's most active volcanos is threatening to erupt, officials said Monday, as they ordered residents in nearby villages to leave.

The alert status of Mount Karangetang was raised to the highest level after it started spewing lava and hot ash hundreds of yards (meters) into the air, said state geologist Surono, who goes by only one name.

Local authorities were helping move villagers living near its base to safety, he said.

The 5,853-foot (1,784-meter) volcano on Siau, part of the Sulawesi island chain, last showed signs of intense activity in July 2006, when 4,000 people were evacuated.

It has spit out ash and lava several times since then, but no serious injuries have been reported.

The last deadly eruption was in 1992, when six villagers were killed.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is located on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

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