Merapi volcano (JAVA, Indonesia) erupts
Friday 09 June 2006 13:22 GMT
Thousands flee from
clouds of gas and hot ash
as Indonesia's Merapi erupts
Author: Ryan Jones
JAKARTA: The Indonesian government yesterday sounded a red alert to people living around Mount Merapi after it started spewing lava and gas clouds down its slopes.
Although denying media reports that the mountain had in fact erupted, the government warned people living within a 7-kilometer radius to leave immediately. Thousands have already abandoned all their belongings in a bid to save their lives. Many are praying fervently for the mountain to calm down.
Merapi, included in the 'Pacific Ring of Fire' list of the most dangerous volcanoes, started spitting out debris and smoke soon after the 27 May quake that rocked this region killing more than 5,000 people, injuring thousands and displacing as many families.
The mountain roared to life with a thunderous sound at 09:05 a.m. (02:05 GMT). Huge gas clouds started billowing out of its crater accompanied by lava flowing down its slopes into the villages, fields and rivers nearby. The lava destroyed several crop bearing fields and miles of forest trees in its path.
Although later today the mountain seemed calmer, the authorities continued to evacuate more people. 18,000 people have so far been evacuated from settlements within a radius of 7 km around Merapi, a military official said. They have also been provided aid.
The mountain has been active for a long time now. The last eruption in 1994 killed 70 people and the one before that, in 1930, had killed 1,300. Volcano experts said Merapi erupts when a lava dome within its crater collapses causing it to spew out hot clouds which then cascade down the slopes accompanied by streams of lava.
The mountain lies about 440 km to the east of the capital.
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USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory, Vancouver, Washington USA
Indonesia Volcanoes and Volcanics
From: Simkin and Siebert, 1994, Volcanoes of the World: Smithsonian Institution and Geoscience Press, Inc., Tucson, Arizona, 349p.
Indonesia consists of more than 13,000 islands, spread over an area approximating that of the conterminous United States. ... Although Chinese records show a Krakatau eruption in the 3rd century AD, and some 17 additional historical eruptions are reported from Kelut as well as Krakatau through the 15th century, uncertainty surrounds many of them. Europeans first began to document eruptions in 1512 (Sangeang Api and Gunungapi Wetar), about the time Portugal gained control of the Mollucan clove trade. ... The disastrous Krakatau eruption of 1883 was followed by several devastating eruptions on other islands and in 1920 a Volcano Survey was established by the government, leading to much improved volcano monitoring and reporting. ... The Volcanological Survey of Indonesia (VSI) now operates a network of 64 volcano observatories continuously monitoring 59 volcanoes.
The great sweep of the Sunda Arc, over 3,000 kilometers from NW Sumatra to the Banda Sea, results from the subduction of Indian Ocean crust beneath the Asian Plate. This arc includes 76% of the region's volcanoes, but those on either end are tectonically more complex. To the NNW, the basaltic volcanism of the Andaman Islands results from short spreading centers, and to the east the Banda Arc reflects Pacific Ocean crust subducted westward. North of this arc, tectonic complexity increases, with converging plate fragments forming multiple subduction zones, mainly oriented N-S, that in turn produce the Sulawesi-Sangihe volcanoes on the west and Haimahera on the east of the collision zone.
Indonesia leads the world in many volcano statistics. It has the largest number of historically active volcanoes (76), its total of 1,171 dated eruptions is only narrowly exceeded by Japan's 1,274, and these two regions have combined to produce 1/3 of the known explosive eruptions. Indonesia has suffered the highest numbers of eruptions producing fatalities, damage to arable land, mudflows, tsunamis, domes, and pyroclastic flows. ... Four-fifths of Indonesian volcanoes with dated eruptions have erupted in this century ...
From: Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program Website, 2000
Merapi, one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, dominates the landscape immediately north of the city of Yogyakarta in one of the world's most densely populated areas. Merapi is the youngest and southernmost of a volcanic chain extending NNW to Ungaran volcano. The steep-sided modern Merapi edifice, its upper part unvegetated due to frequent eruptive activity, was constructed to the SW of an arcuate scarp cutting the eroded older Batulawang volcano.
Pyroclastic flows and lahars accompanying growth and collapse of the steep-sided active summit lava dome have devastated cultivated lands on the volcano's western-to-southern flanks and caused many fatalities during historical time. Since 1953, activity has been characterized by extrusion of lava into the summit crater, with periodic lava dome collapse and nuée ardente formation. Summit lava dome growth has continued since the 1969 gas explosion. It is monitored from the Merapi Volcano Observatory (MVO) in Yogyakarta.
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02/06/03, Lyn Topinka