Mt Sinabung eruption sparks scramble to issue aid

Mount Sinabung spewing thick volcanic ash into the air in Karo, North Sumatra, yesterday. The Indonesian volcano, which has been rumbling since 2010 and saw a deadly eruption in 2016, emitted the thick plume after activity picked up in recent days. T
Mount Sinabung spewing thick volcanic ash into the air in Karo, North Sumatra, yesterday. The Indonesian volcano, which has been rumbling since 2010 and saw a deadly eruption in 2016, emitted the thick plume after activity picked up in recent days. There were no reports of injuries or deaths.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KARO (Indonesia) • An Indonesian volcano erupted yesterday, sending a massive column of ash and smoke some 5,000m into the air, leaving local villages coated in debris and officials scrambling to hand out face masks to residents.

Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island, which has been rumbling since 2010 and saw a deadly eruption in 2016, spewed the thick plume after activity picked up in recent days.

"This was the biggest eruption for Mount Sinabung this year," said volcanology agency chief Kasbani, who goes by one name.

There were no reports of injuries or deaths.

No one lives inside a previously announced no-go zone around the volcano. But hundreds of houses outside the 7km danger zone were covered in volcanic ash.

Officials have distributed face masks and urged local residents to stay indoors to avoid respiratory problems, said local disaster mitigation agency official Nata Nail Perangin-angin.

"In some villages, the visibility was barely 5m after the eruption - it was pitch black," said the official.

Pressure inside the crater was threatening to spark collapses in its dome, he added.

Indonesia has upgraded its flight warning around the volcano to red, its highest level.

Sinabung roared back to life in 2010 for the first time in 400 years. After another period of inactivity, it erupted once more in 2013 and has been highly active since. In 2016, seven people died in one eruption, while a 2014 eruption killed 16.

Indonesia is home to around 130 volcanoes because of its position on the Ring of Fire, a belt of tectonic plate boundaries circling the Pacific Ocean where seismic activity occurs frequently.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2018, with the headline 'Mt Sinabung eruption sparks scramble to issue aid'. Print Edition | Subscribe