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Jakarta Post

Threat of pyroclastic flows still overshadows Karo residents

  • Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Karo, North Sumatra   /   Mon, October 13, 2014   /  09:49 am

It has been reported that Mount Sinabung in Karo regency in North Sumatra is still prone to emitting deadly pyroclastic flows that could occur at any time.

During the past week, the active volcano repeatedly erupted, spewing hot clouds and showering the nearby city of Berastagi with volcanic ash.

Head of the Sinabung observation post, Armen Putra, said the pyroclastic flows were expected to continue as the volcano displayed intensifying activity. He said there was a good chance that Mt. Sinabung would keep erupting during the following days.

'€œBased on our observations Mt. Sinabung is still emitting huge pyroclastic flows that could be discharged at any time in greater volumes than ever,'€ he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

He said the pyroclastic flows currently travelled down the slopes to the south of several villages.

On Oct. 5 they reached 4.5 kilometers to the south, which was deemed the longest descent so far. As of Sunday at 12 p.m., Mt. Sinabung emitted the hot flows on five occasions, reaching 3 km to the south.

'€œResidents living around the volcano should remain alert because the pyroclastic flows have been continuously released during recent days,'€ Armen said.

In February this year, 14 people were killed while three others were severely injured after the volcano suddenly spewed hot ash.

Before the incident, the ongoing eruptions had claimed the lives of 31 evacuees, as a result of various illnesses such as breathing difficulties and medical problems related to living in the area of an active volcano.

Armen said the mountain continued to emit volcanic ash that was blown by the wind to the southwest.

Last week, the volcanic ash travelled to the east, blanketing Berastagi city, a renowned tourist destination located some 30 kilometers from Karo. Business and tourism activities in the city were badly affected as many stalls in the traditional markets were closed and events due to be held in the hotels were cancelled.

Last Thursday, the ash also covered the runway of Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang, disrupting a number of flights.

Acting Karo regent Terkelin Brahmana said the administration had deployed dozens of water tankers from surrounding areas to wash off the volcanic ash from Berastagi.

He said he had directly requested his fellow regents and mayor from Pakpak regency, Langkat regency, Medan city and Dairi regency to help him with the water tankers.

'€œThank God, Berastagi city has been cleared of the volcanic ash. We'€™ve cleaned up the streets, schools, offices, religious places and stores, so they can be beautiful again,'€ he said.

On Sunday, a number of stores in Berastagi city began to resume their business activities although many still remained closed due to the volcanic ash. Several stalls in traditional markets also remained closed.

Several days ago, the ash also blanketed and destroyed several hectares of nearby farmland, which had been planted with vegetables, fruit and rice.

Antara news portal reported that on Friday and Saturday, the volcanic ash caused poor visibility in Parapat city and covered the surface of the popular Lake Toba.

Terkelin urged residents to remain calm and to wear masks while awaiting further instructions from the authorities. He said currently, there was no need for evacuation.

The volcano first erupted in September last year, displacing more than 33,000 residents.

As of Oct. 5, there were still 3,287 evacuees from 1,019 families in 16 evacuation centers.

The administration aims to have all evacuees back in their homes by the end of the year.

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