Underwater volcano disputed

A claim by researchers about the discovery of a giant underwater volcano in Bengkulu province has sparked debate as colleagues from another institution say there is not enough evidence to justify the claim.

Muhamad Hendrasto, head of volcano observation at the Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG), said Indonesia so far had only four offshore volcanos that show signs of activity - Mt. Hobal in East Flores waters in East Nusa Tenggara, Mt. Banua Wuhu, northwest of Mangehetang Island, Sangihe Islands in North Sulawesi, Mt. Submarine 1922 in North Sulawesi, and Mt. Niuwerkerk in the Banda Islands.

Hendrasto said his office had yet to plan further research and was still awaiting official data from researchers who recorded images of the massive underwater volcano.

"I can neither deny nor confirm the claims at this stage, due to the lack of historical data about the presence of a volcano off the western coast of Sumatra," Hendrasto said in Bandung on Friday.

Hendrasto said the PVMBG were not equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to monitor the underwater volcano, but had always recorded its activities and volcanic eruptions.

PVMBG head Surono concurred, saying he would wait for the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) to complete their research on the new volcano, believed to be 4,600 meters high and located 5,900 meters below sea level.

"We will see whether the criteria match those of a volcano," said Surono.

Coordinator of the West Sumatra Disaster Response Center Ade Edwar told The Jakarta Post in Padang, West Sumatra, that people should not worry about the presence of the massive underwater mountain located 330 kilometres west of Bengkulu, West Sumatra, because even if it was active it would not be dangerous due to its remote location.

According to Ade, who is also coordinator of the West Sumatra branch of the Indonesian Geologists Association (IAGI), the volcano finding has actually long been identified through satellite imagery, and can be observed on Google Earth.

However, detailed measurements were only discovered following earthquake and tsunami risk studies conducted off Sumatra's west coast.

The volcano lies beyond Indonesian territory, or outside the Exclusive Economic Zone, in international waters, 330 kilometers from the coast of Muko-Muko regency in Bengkulu and Pesisir Selatan regency in West Sumatra.

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