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Smoke, dust covers Mt.
Sinabung after new eruption

mount: A villagers see a Mount Sinabung spews clouds of hot ash and smoke in Tanah Karo, North Sumatra, Thursday.
A villagers see a Mount Sinabung spews clouds of hot ash and smoke in Tanah Karo, North Sumatra, Thursday.

Thick smoke and dust have covered Mount Sinabung in Karo, North Sumatra, making visual monitoring impossible, following its latest eruption on early Friday.

Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) plans to put a detecting device on the volcano slope to monitor further development of its activity, Antara news agency has reported.

The volcano sent a new, powerful burst of hot ash high into the air early Friday, violently shaking homes and trees along the slopes and sending panicked villagers scurrying back to safety.

The air was thick with the smell of sulfur and visibility was limited to just a few meters.

Mount Sinabung erupted for the first time in four centuries on Sunday and Monday, catching many scientists off guard and forcing at east 30,000 people living along its fertile slopes in North Sumatra province to be evacuated.

In recent days, as the mountain quieted, many had returned home to tend to their dust-covered crops and to reopen small businesses, despite warnings by vulcanologists that the alert level was still high.

The eruption Friday, which started at around 4:45 a.m., as many people were sleeping, appeared to be the strongest yet, said Surono, who heads the PVMBG, adding that the tremor could be felt eight kilometers away.

Mount Sinabung last erupted in 1600, and government vulcanologists acknowledged they had made no efforts before the mountain started rumbling last week to sample gases or look out for rising magma or other signs of seismic activity.

They were too busy with more than 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a seismically charged region because of its location on the so-called "Ring of Fire" - a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

They said from now on they will be watching it very closely.

There are fears that current activity could foreshadow a much more destructive explosion in a few weeks or months, though it is possible, too, that the mountain will go back to sleep after letting off steam.

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