The continuous eruptions of Mount Sinabung, which began in early November in Karo regency, North Sumatra, have caused scientists to alter the hazard map for the volcano and its surrounding area, an official at the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) says.
The changes to the hazard map include the expansion of the second-tier disaster-prone area, which was previously within a radius of two to three kilometers from Sinabung’s crater and is now within four to five kilometers.
PVMBG head M. Hendrasto said that since the volcano’s eruption in September 2010, his office had been recommending relocation for people living in the three sub-districts nearest to the crater — namely the Sukameriah, Simacem and Bekerah subdistricts — but the local administration failed to act on the recommendation.
“The three sub-districts are located only three kilometers from the crater of Mt. Sinabung,” said Hendrasto, adding that they were at risk of being hit by pyroclastic flows.
Hendrasto also said that the 2013 eruptions were different from those in 2010, which had occurred intermittently over a span of 10 days.
“This year, on the other hand, the flow of lava from the volcano never stops. We cannot predict when the eruptions will end,” he said.
On Monday, the volcano spewed ash as high as 8,000 meters into the air, with a pyroclastic flow that rushed as far as 800 meters from the crater.
The PVMBG is keeping the alert status of the volcano at the second-highest level, or “siaga”. The center has also advised that nine subdistricts and villages on the slope of the volcano be evacuated.
They are the sub-districts of Guru Kinayan, Suka Meriah, Beras Tepu, Bekerah and Gamber on the southeast side of the volcano; Sibuntu village on the south; Simacem sub-district on the east; Manginding sub-district on the southwest; and Lau Kawar village on the north.
The PVMBG also called on tourists to postpone plans to visit certain volcanoes in the country until the recent spate of volcanic activity quieted down.
Head of PVMBG’s volcano examination and observation subdivision Hendra Gunawan said that apart from Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra and Mount Merapi on the border of Yogyakarta and Central Java, there were four other volcanoes that had the potential to erupt.
“These volcanoes could erupt at any time, which is why we’re urging tourists to stay at least three kilometers away from them,” Hendra said on Tuesday, as quoted by Antara news agency.
The four volcanoes are Mount Rokatenda in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Mount Ibu in Halmahera (Maluku) and Mount Lokon and Mount Karangetang in North Sulawesi.
The PVMBG, however, called on people living around volcanoes not to panic but to stay on alert and to reduce activities in disaster-prone areas.
“Mount Merapi, for example, suddenly returned to normal after it previously rumbled and spewed volcanic ash,” Hendra said.
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