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Java prepares to evacuate as volcano trembles JAKARTA - Indonesia prepared to evacuate thousands of villagers on Monday after a massive volcano in the heart of densely populated Java island started spewing thick clouds of smoke and hot lava, officials said. Authorities have placed Mount Merapi, which overlooks the ancient city of Jogjakarta, on Orange Code, or the second highest alert level, following fears of an eruption due to an increase in the number of tremors.

"Due to a high level of tremor activities and the spewing of the lava, Mount Merapi is now on alert status," Dali Ahmad, a volcanologist from the Directorate of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, told Reuters by telephone. Officials said the military had deployed more than 200 trucks and buses to evacuate villagers living on the slopes of Merapi near Jogjakarta, 460 km (285 miles) west of the capital, Jakarta.

"We have conducted an evacuation drill and it appears that villagers have grown used to it," said Sriyanto, a police official. Mount Merapi's increased volcanic activity prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to order preparations for evacuation.

Merapi's last major eruption was in 1994 when more than 60 people were killed. One of its most destructive eruptions was in 1930, when 1,300 people were killed. Indonesia sits astride the geologically active Pacific "Ring of Fire" and has more than 100 active volcanoes.

Many Indonesians see activity in Mount Merapi in the mystical heartland of Java as an omen of a looming political eruption. Thousands of villagers were evacuated in January 1997 when Merapi became more active, just months before the Asian financial crisis struck. Most Javanese, who make up the bulk of Indonesia's 220 million people, are Muslim, but many cling to a spiritual past and believe a supernatural kingdom exists on top of Merapi.

Link to related event Related event:
Eruptive Mount Merapi

Related blog entries (category 'Volcanoes') Related blog entries (category 'Volcanoes'):
19 April 2006 · Mt Merapi's condition getting more serious
18 April 2006 · Merapi residents get ready to flee
16 April 2006 · Indonesia prepares for possible volcanic eruption
13 April 2006 · Govt boosts alert level at huge volcano, fearing eruption
12 April 2006 · Govt bans climbers as Mount Merapi volcano heats up

Posted in Volcanoes @ 20 April 2006 15:43 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

User icon of Albert
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Merapi's activity climbs in wake of quake

Slamet Susanto, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

A volcanologist warned Monday that Mt. Merapi's activity level had tripled in the wake of Saturday's catastrophic earthquake in Yogyakarta and Central Java.

A. Ratdomopurbo said an eruption was still possible following the quake -- measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale according to the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency -- after the volcano expelled more hot clouds of ash and gas which reached farther distances.

"The quake in Bantul clearly affected Merapi's activities. Since the quake, the volcano has discharged hot clouds three times more than usual," the chief of the Yogyakarta-based Volcanological Research and Technology Development Center told The Jakarta Post.

The volcano, which has been rumbling and spewing smoke and lava for weeks, only expelled 45 hot clouds Friday, but the number rose to 54 on Saturday and then jumped to 159 on Sunday.

"The increase might have happened because the lava dome was shaken, opening up a new way for the hot clouds (to be released)," Ratdomopurbo said.

International volcanology experts were divided about whether the earthquake and the volcano's heightened activity were related.

Chew Soon Hoe, an associate professor of engineering geology at the National University of Singapore, said Merapi's renewed activity and the earthquake are related. Both are in the same subduction zone -- the area where one tectonic plate slides under another plate -- along a boundary between the Euro-Asia plate and the India-Australia plate, he told AP.

"This ocean plate ... is the cause of the recent earthquake and volcanic activity in Indonesia," Chew said. "Because it is very near, the energy released by the quake will accelerate or perturb the activity of the volcano."

David Booth, a seismologist with the British Geological Survey, disagreed, saying the quake would not necessarily cause the volcano to erupt. He said the plates that shifted to cause the earthquake did not necessarily open cracks in the surface that would be needed to cause a volcanic eruption.

"Volcanoes are all about creating pathways for the magma to move up to the surface," Booth said in a telephone interview. "It's like a lemonade bottle having been shaken. There is enormous pressure there. But if there isn't a pathway to the surface, then the pressure will stay contained."

Ratdomopurbo said the clouds also were heading in a new direction, from the usual route toward Magelang city in Central Java to Gendol riverbank in Cangkringan, Sleman regency.

"The new direction of the hot clouds is the latest development in Merapi's activity," he said.

The clouds also reached a farther distance of four kilometers down the slope from recent days. It was similar to the distance of the first hot cloud recorded on May 15.

The increased activity, he added, also was marked by a higher number of tremors, from 29 recorded a day before the quake to 237 on Sunday. On Monday, in the period from midnight to 6 a.m., over 85 tremors had been recorded at the mountain.

Ratdomopurbo was unsure of the impact of Saturday's quake on the volcano's two lava cauldrons -- one located at 1.5 kilometers deep and the other 6 kilometers deep.

"We can't detect it because they are located deep under the surface. What we can observe is the increase in activity of its hot clouds," Ratdomopurbo said.

He predicted it would expel bigger hot clouds, with the greatest danger posed by an eruption due to high temperatures and toxic gases. The clouds -- which can reach temperatures of 1,000 degree Celsius at the crater and 400 degrees Celsius by the time they reach communities on the volcano's slopes -- killed 50 people during a 1994 eruption.

Sukamto, a resident of Senolewah village located some 6.5 kilometers from the crater, said hot clouds were more frequently seen and larger than usual as they headed south in the direction of the town of Sleman.

"All this time, the hot clouds never headed south. Now, they are bigger and darker," he said.

User icon of Jeroen
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Albert, can you please not do only newsdumps? It will be in the news section on the website as well, and now there isn't anything to talk about. Emoticon: Smile

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