Increased activity at 22 volcanoes, alert raised
The government has requested that local administrations remain on the alert for severe risks of volcanic eruptions, as the number of volcanoes showing abnormal activity continued to raise.
As of Friday, activity in 22 volcanoes was categorized as above normal, with six at alert level three and 16 at level two. Volcano status ranges from level one, which is normal, to four, which is the highest alert.
The Volcanology and Geophysical Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) raised the status of Papandayan, one of the major tourist destinations in Garut, West Java, to alert level three on Friday.
“There were 48 shallow volcanic earthquakes detected, with one deep volcanic earthquake and a white cloud emitted as high as 20 meters on Thursday,” National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
Sutopo added that his office had prepared contingency plans to anticipate worst-case scenarios if
“If Papandayan erupts, it would impact 171,744 people living in the five subdistricts and 20 villages,” he said.
Indonesia has been dubbed the world’s most disaster-prone country for its frequent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods and droughts.
Indonesia lies in the “Ring of Fire”, where dozens of volcanoes are still active.
A 2011 report from the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) ranked Indonesia the third-most prone nation out of 153 countries for earthquakes, with 11,056,806 people exposed.
It said that earthquake hazards could potentially cause a loss of US$79.13 billion to the nation’s GDP.
A 2010 report from the World Bank ranks Indonesia as 12th among countries with relatively high mortality risks from the multiple hazards.
Mount Merapi, which erupted last year, caused a financial loss of Rp 3.59 trillion.
Sutopo said that his office had transferred Rp 444 billion to the Public Works Ministry to accelerate the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged by Mt. Merapi.
“From that money, some Rp 232 billion was used to rebuild roads and bridges,” he said.
The eruption of Mt. Merapi damaged at least 23 bridges, including Pabelan bridge connecting Yogyakarta and Magelang.
On Thursday, the government elevated the status of three volcanoes: Tombora, Lewatobi Perempuan and Anak Rakana in Nusa Tenggara.
Tombora, in Bima Regency, experienced 14 shallow volcanic earthquakes.
Tambora erupted in 1815, killing about 71,000.
The eruption emitted some 100 cubic kilometers of volcanic material across Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Java and Maluku.
Activity at Lewotobi Perempuan in Flores increased as well, experiencing 24 earthquakes on Thursday. There were only five the day before.
Lewotobi last erupted in 1935.
The UN ISDR also ranked Indonesia first out of 265 countries for tsunami hazards, with over five million people exposed.