JAKARTA, Indonesia – After being ravaged by a deadly earthquake and a tsunami last week, Indonesia’s fourth largest island witnessed a violent volcanic eruption on Wednesday morning.
Indonesia’s Sulawesi island was struck by a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Friday, which triggered a tsunami, that ripped apart the coastline of the city of Palu on the island.
Two days later, after an initial assessment, the Indonesian government said that at least 1,350 people had been killed in the disasters, and efforts to rescue people and offer aid to survivors is still ongoing.
Two violent eruptions
On Wednesday morning, authorities confirmed that one of Sulawesi’s most active volcanoes, Mount Soputan erupted violently, spewing ash 6,000 meters into the sky.
Mount Soputan, which is said to have recorded its first ever eruption in 1450, and has erupted 39 times in the last 600 years, is located just 900 km north-east of the quake-ravaged region.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, Head of Indonesia’s National Board for Disaster Management said in an update on Twitter, “Soputan in Minahasa in North Sulawesi Province erupted at 3/10/2018 at 08.47 WITA. High ash column 4,000 meters mengarahnke West-Northwest. Maximum amplitude recorded PVMBG 39 mm and about 6 minutes duration.”
Nugroho told reporters that no evacuations have been ordered so far, but added, “Planes had been warned of the ash clouds since volcanic ash is hazardous for plane engines.”
Further, authorities said that the eruption status was raised from an alert to standby 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from the summit and up to 6.5 kilometres to the west-southwest.
In a separate warning, the Regional Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said, “The community should not have activities in all areas within a 4km radius of the peak of Mount Soputan and within the sectoral expansion area to the west-south-west direction as far as 6.5km from the peak which is a crater opening area to avoid the potential threat of lava and hot clouds.”
Mount Soputan erupted a few minutes after another volcano called the Anak Krakatau or the child of the legendary Krakatoa erupted on Wednesday morning.
The Anak Krakatau, which emerged from the ocean more than half a century back, rumbled back to life in July this year.
The popular tourist spot that emerged after Krakatoa’s deadly eruption in 1883 and has formed a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, began spewing ash and molten lava.
When Krakatoa erupted in the 19th century, it sent a jet of ash, stones and smoke over 20 km into the sky, plunging the region into darkness and sparked a huge tsunami that was felt around the world.
At the time, the disaster killed over 36,000 people.
However, on Wednesday, Nugroho tried to reassure people on Twitter and wrote, “Mount child of Krakatoa erupted almost daily. On 2/10/2018 156 eruptions occurred, throwing sand and ash, incandescent lava. The volcano’s condition is safe if it is outside the radius of 2 km from the crater. Interesting to see the tourist phenomenon the mountain erupted in a safe place.”
Meanwhile, authorities said on Wednesday that aid supplies had started to arrive in Palu city, which was the worst affected from the earthquake and tsunami that struck the island on Friday.
Further, the United Nations and relief agencies confirmed that more reinforcements had been sent to help the decimated region.
The Indonesian President, Jokowi Widodo, who visited the stricken island, appealed for international help.
So far, over 25 countries have offered assistance to the disaster-prone country.
Ring of Fire
Indonesia, the sprawling archipelago that straddles the geological disaster zone in the Pacific called the Ring of Fire, has seismically active tectonic plates.
The series of fragile fault lines that form the Ring of Fire stretch 25,000 miles from New Zealand, across the east coast of Asia through Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan, over to Alaska, Canada and the U.S. West Coast then down to the southern tip of South America.
Overall, the Ring of Fire contains 452 volcanoes and several tectonic plates in the earth’s crust and more than half of the world’s active volcanoes above sea level are part of the ring.
Indonesia sits atop this arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin, which makes the country more prone to frequent seismic and volcanic activity.