Authorities maintain alert as Mt Ruang spews ash again


Ongoing crisis: A man looking at holes in the roof caused by the volcanic material from the recent eruptions of the Mount Ruang volcano on Tagulandang Island in Sitaro, North Sulawesi. — AFP

The threat from an Indonesian volcano that has erupted more than half a dozen times this week is not over, the archipelago’s top volcanology official said, as the crater belched another ash tower yesterday.

Mount Ruang, located in Indonesia’s outermost region of North Sulawesi province, started erupting late Tuesday, prompting authorities to evacuate thousands on islands near the stratovolcano and closure of the nearest international airport.

The volcano erupted again before midnight Friday and again yesterday afternoon, spewing an ash column 250m above its peak, the latest of a wave of volcanic activity, the volcanology agency said.

That forced the country’s volcanology agency to warn that major eruptions could still take place, despite the crater calming since it stirred a spectacular mix of lava, ash and lightning earlier in the week, raining down molten rocks on nearby villages.

“With volcanic earthquakes recorded, this crisis is not over yet,” said agency head Hendra Gunawan.

“It indicates magmatic fluid supply is still moving from the depth to the surface. So it’s not surprising if eruptions still occur.”

The volcano, with a peak 725m above sea level, is currently the only one of Indonesia’s more than 100 volcanos at the highest alert level of a four-tiered system.

Authorities have kept a 6km exclusion zone around the volcano. More than 6,000 residents of neighbouring Tagulandang Island, home to around 20,000 people, were evacuated outside the exclusion zone, a local official said on Friday.

Authorities previously estimated more than 11,000 people would need to be evacuated because of the volcanology agency’s warning of volcanic rocks, hot clouds and lava flows.

Residents were advised to wear masks to avoid respiratory problems, the agency said in a statement.

The stratovolcano’s latest activity also prompted authorities to extend the closure of Sam Ratulangi international airport in the provincial capital of Manado, more than 100km away.

The airport, initially set to reopen yesterday, will remain closed until today as volcanic ash from Mount Ruang was detected around it, Ambar Suryoko, head of the Manado region airport authority, said in a statement.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation, experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”. — AFP

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