The Jakarta Post
After a four-day lull, Mount Slamet erupted several times between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Wednesday, spewing ash and lava high into the air.
Forest areas on the northern side of the volcano were reportedly razed, while residents living on the southern slope of the mountain in Baturaden district in Banyumas, Central Java, endured falling volcanic ash.
'The rumbles were loud and frightening and could be heard very clearly as far away as the city of Purwokerto [Banyumas regency],' Nurul, 43, a resident of Dukuhwaluh village, Kembaran district, Banyumas, said on Wednesday.
Sudrajat, the head of the Mt. Slamet observation post in Gambuhan, Pulosari, Pemalang regency, said volcanic activity had intensified during a six hour period hours on Wednesday.
Four loud bangs took place from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Between 10:30 a.m. and 10:50 a.m, the observation post recorded discharges of molten lava and volcanic material.
'The powerful bangs occurred four times and then the volcano spewed molten material up to 1,000 meters above the peak,' said Sudrajat.
As of 12 noon Wednesday, Mt. Slamet had emitted thick black ash on eight occasions, reaching between 500 meters and 1,000 meters high. The thick ash could be seen clearly as the weather was bright and windless.
'Residents have been barred from carrying out activities within a radius of 4 km from the peak,' said Sudrajat.
Separately, Surono, the geological agency head at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry announced in Purwokerto that the alert status remained at level 3 and there was yet no credible cause to raise the status to level 4, the highest level. A raising of the alert status to level 4 would trigger mandatory evacuations. He said, however, that the 4 km protective radius would remain in place.
'Residents can carry out their activities beyond the 4 km radius as [that distance] is considered safe and they should not panic, but remain vigilant,' said Surono.
Regarding the forest fire currently raging some 2 km from the peak, Surono said it was not possible put it out, especially during the current alert situation. He expressed the hope that fire would be extinguished naturally.
'It's impossible to send a fire-fighting team due to the huge risk and distance. We'd rather stay alert for the possibility of evacuating residents in the event of a major eruption,' said Banyumas Regency Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Didi Rudwiyanto.
Despite the repeated eruptions, most residents living around the mountain appeared calm, with many believing that the increased activity did not portend a major eruption. Last weekend, swarms of visitors could still be seen at the Guci Spring resort area.
Separately, in the provincial capital of Semarang, the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) distributed baby supplies in five affected regencies.
The aid was distributed on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Central Java PMI Disaster Services Center by PMI chairman Jusuf Kalla at the Central Java PMI Training and Education Center complex in Sambiroto, Kedungmundu, Semarang, on Wednesday.
Mt. Slamet last erupted in 2009. On March 10, the alert level was raised from level 1, or normal, to level 2, or waspada (alert). On August 12, the alert level was raised to level 3, or siaga (prepared).