The Jakarta Post
Ten days after its alert status was raised to the highest level, Mount Sinabung in the Karo regency of North Sumatra erupted on Friday, triggering pyroclastic flows and spewing volcanic ash that blanketed the surrounding areas.
The Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) reported that the eruption took place at 10:42 a.m. local time and lasted for 10 minutes.
An officer at the PVMBG's Mt. Sinabung observation post, Wendy Cahya, said the eruption of pyroclastic flows reached as far as 3 kilometers south of the volcano while the volcanic ash reached up to 500 meters into the sky toward the east.
Although the intensity of the eruption can be considered 'moderate', Wendy warned local residents against approaching the volcano, as it might produce much bigger eruptions in the near future.
Wendy said that Friday's eruption had so far not harmed local residents as thousands of people living within a radius of 7 kilometers from Sinabung's crater had already been evacuated early this month as a response to the escalating volcanic activity.
The ash produced during the eruption, meanwhile, has hampered the activities of those living in areas that are located north of the volcano, particularly in the city of Berastagi, a popular tourist destination located 30 kilometers from the erupting volcano.
'Half of the city is covered today [Friday] by drifting ash from the volcano,' Wendy told The Jakarta Post.
Avalanches of hot lava, according to Wendy, had also been occurring more frequently, more than 100 times every day since earlier this month.
'Mt. Sinabung still can erupt because of the high volcanic activity. The number of avalanches of hot lava has also kept increasing. We need to be careful,' he said.
Since an eruption in September 2013, Mt. Sinabung has never entirely stopped its activity. Thousands of residents moved away at that time, only returning home last month after the volcano showed decreased activity. The eruptions have killed at least 17 people and destroyed thousands of houses and hectares of farmland.
A series of Sinabung's eruptions over the past years have also affected business and tourism activities in Berastagi as many stalls in the traditional markets were closed and events due to be held in the hotels were cancelled.
The alert status of the volcano has been officially increased from Siaga (second highest) to Awas (highest) since June 2, following the emergence of signs of possible big eruptions, which could spew pyroclastic flows into the 7-kilometer radius around the volcano.
The signs include a huge massing of lava at the peak of Sinabung's crater.
With a volume of 3 million cubic meters, the lava could reach 6 kilometers down the slope of the volcano.
More than 2,000 people were reported to have been evacuated since then. They came from four subdistricts ' Gurukinayan, Tiga Pancur, Pintu Besi and Berastepu ' that are located to the south and southeast of Sinabung's crater.
The head of the Karo Regency Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Subur Tambun, said local authorities had intensively warned residents against getting too close to the volcano's danger zone.
However, despite the efforts, Subur said that there were some people who still insisted on returning to the area to visit their houses or farmland.
'Most of these people entered the danger zone through small, unguarded passages, since local authorities have heavily guarded the main roads to the area,' he said.
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