Sat. May 18th, 2024

Eruptions at a remote Indonesian volcano have led to the closure of more than half a dozen airports, as volcanic ash spread as far as Malaysia, officials confirmed on Wednesday. The eruption prompted emergency evacuations and heightened concerns about potential tsunamis in the region.

Mount Ruang erupted three times on Tuesday, ejecting lava and ash over five kilometres (three miles) into the sky. The explosive activity resulted in the closure of seven airports, including major facilities in the provincial capital Manado and the city of Gorontalo, according to a statement by AirNav Indonesia, the state-run air traffic control provider.

In response to the eruption, authorities ordered the evacuation of 12,000 residents from the surrounding areas. A rescue ship and a warship were deployed to aid the evacuation of thousands of people from Tagulandang Island to Siau Island, due to concerns that parts of the volcano could collapse into the sea, potentially causing a tsunami.

Rosalin Salindeho, a 95-year-old resident of Tagulandang, shared her experience of the eruptions. “The mountain exploded. Wow, it was horrible. There were rains of rocks. Twice. The second one was really heavy, even the houses far away were also hit,” she said upon arriving in Siau.

The impact of the eruption reached beyond Indonesia’s borders. The country’s meteorological agency (BMKG) released a map indicating that volcanic ash had traveled as far as eastern Malaysia on Borneo Island, which is shared by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. This widespread ash dispersion underscores the severity of the eruption and its far-reaching consequences.

Mount Ruang’s eruption and the ongoing risk of further activity prompted continued monitoring. Julius Ramopolii, head of the Mount Ruang monitoring post, stated that the volcano was still emitting thick plumes of grey smoke, reaching 500-700 metres (2,300 feet) above the crater. The alert level remained at its highest, and authorities urged locals to stay clear of a seven-kilometre exclusion zone.

Indonesia is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a region known for its high seismic and volcanic activity. The current eruption serves as a reminder of the inherent risks in this geologically active area and the importance of swift response and monitoring to mitigate potential disasters.

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