Jakarta (AFP) Aug 29, 2010
A volcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra erupted for the first time in 400 years Sunday, spewing a vast cloud of smoke and ash into the air and sending thousands of people fleeing from their homes.
Indonesia issued a red alert after the Sinabung volcano erupted, blanketing the area in thick and acrid black smoke, disaster officials said, although no casualties have yet been reported.
"It's clearly dangerous so we've raised the warning to the highest level, or red level," said Surono, head of the nation's volcano disaster alert centre.
"From the crater, it shot smoke and volcanic ash 1,500 metres (5,000 feet) into the sky," he told AFP.
The 2,460-metre (8,100-foot) Sinabung in northern Sumatra has not erupted for more than 400 years but had shown "some volcanic activity" since Friday, Surono said, adding that they were monitoring the situation.
Villagers said they saw lava emerge from the crater around midnight, about 15 minutes before the eruption.
"I saw flames flickering, very red right at the top. Previously there was only smoke," Terkilin Sembiring was quoted as saying by Detikcom news website.
"At the time, we heard a sound like an aircraft flying past. We thought it was a government official's plane but it turned out that the sound came from the volcano," another villager Maslin Pandia was quoted as saying by Kompas.com news website.
Television footage showed black smoke shooting up into the sky and lava overflowing from the crater as residents fled the area in pickup trucks and cars.
More than 18,000 people have been evacuated from several affected villages to towns outside a six-kilometre "danger zone", officials said.
"The ash has spread to a distance of 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the volcano. Many of the villagers evacuated were farmers and they said the ash had settled on their vegetable farms," search and rescue team official Mohammad Agus Wibisono told AFP.
There were however no flight disruptions, Wibisono said.
Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono told AFP that many residents in four affected villages at the foot of the volcano had fled immediately after the eruption.
"Many had left their homes even before they were evacuated. They said the volcano was spewing thick black smoke, small stones and sulphur. They were so scared they decided to leave their homes and go to the city," Kardono said, adding that a rescue team had been sent to survey the area.
"The area is blanketed with thick smoke and there's a strong smell of sulphur," he added.
Kardono said while there were no reports yet of any deaths or injuries, "many" had reported breathing difficulties.
"We have anticipated that people may have respiratory problems from inhaling dust. So we've given them face masks and are preparing to send in medicines for respiratory infections," he added.
The red alert would likely remain for "at least a week" as vulcanologists monitor the situation, Kardono said.
"There's little data on Mount Sinabung. The eruption took the experts by surprise. We don't know when it might erupt again so, it's best for people to stay away until the experts can determine when it's safe to go home," he added.
Antara news agency quoted local police as saying that two people had died from heart attacks. Karo district official Andes Mbaga earlier said one of them had "breathing problems which could have been worsened by the ash and dust floating around".
Evacuees from 18 affected villages were "all doing well" and those who complained of breathing problems were receiving medical help.
"Villagers are too traumatised to go home but the situation is under control, we have enough tents, food and water," he said, although volcanic activity had reduced significantly.
"We're going to stay put here. Mount Sinabung has never spouted so much smoke and at such a high level. We're so scared that it might erupt," villager Edi Ginting told Jawa Pos news website.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity. It has more active volcanoes than any other country.
Earlier this month, four people went missing after the 1,784-metre Mount Karangetang, on the remote island of Siau in North Sulawesi province, erupted.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
When the Earth Quakes
A world of storm and tempest
Colombia volcano placed on red alert
Pasto, Colombia (AFP) Aug 25, 2010
Colombia raised Wednesday the alert status of its most active volcano to its highest level and ordered the evacuation of 8,000 people after it began spewing smoke and ash. Although the pre-dawn eruption at 4:00 am local time (0900 GMT) was not considered major, officials placed the Galeras volcano in the western department of Narino near the border with Ecuador on red alert. "The volcano ... read more
Celebrating and commemorating, New Orleans remembers Katrina|
Pakistan on 'war footing' to save city
Chile, NASA in talks to rescue miners
Jazz breathes life back into New Orleans after Katrina
Canadian PM Announces Support For Next Gen Of Satellites
First Successful Corona Remote Sensing Satellite Marks 50 Year Anniversary
Apple expected to update iPod line at Sept. 1 event
Japan develops 'touchable' 3D TV technology
Lula's parting gift is a controversial dam
After decades, Estonians could regain seal hunting rights
EU overfishing charges 'preposterous': Iceland
Japan high-tech toilet makers flush with success
Why Fish Don't Freeze In The Arctic Ocean
Receding ice could unlock arctic trove
Is The Ice In The Arctic Ocean Getting Thinner And Thinner
Resolving The Paradox Of The Antarctic Sea Ice
Malaysia mulls landmark trial of GM anti-dengue mosquitoes
Plant Scientists Move Closer To Making Any Crop Drought-Tolerant
Ancient Roman mill uncovered in U.K.
Paraguay marks fragile farm-based recovery
Thousands flee as Indonesia volcano erupts
Antigua, Caribbean brace for Hurricane Earl
Hurricane Danielle halts high-tech mapping of 'Titanic'
Niger floods leave 200,000 homeless: UN
S.Africa defends Chinese expansion in Africa
S.Africa's Zuma in China for talks on growing ties
Somali peacekeepers may boost troops
South Africa's Zuma visits key partner China to boost ties
The Mother Of All Humans
Giant Chinese 'Michelin baby' startles doctors: reports
Mother Of All Humans Lived 200,000 Years Ago
Humans Trump Nature On Texas River
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|