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Sulawesi volcano eruption sparks tsunami threat, thousands evacuated

Indonesian authorities issued a tsunami warning and raised Mount Ruang’s alert to the highest level after multiple large eruptions near Sulawesi Island. Two eruptions on Wednesday sent ash 3,000 meters high.



North Sulawesi's Mount Ruang erupts

NORTH SULAWESI, INDONESIA: Mount Ruang, a volcano located in Sitaro Regency, North Sulawesi, has recently exhibited signs of increased activity, causing concern among local authorities and residents alike.

The eruption, which commenced on the evening of 17 April at 8:15 pm local time, ejected volcanic ash reaching heights of up to 3,000 meters from the crater, accompanied by spectacular displays of volcanic lightning flashes.

On Thursday, Indonesian authorities ordered the evacuation of thousands following multiple eruptions of a volcano in North Sulawesi province. Officials also warned of a potential tsunami.

According to reports from the Mount Ruang Observation Post Officer, Julius Rampoli, the ash column appeared grey to black, with the intensity notably thicker towards the south.

Preceding the eruption, on 16 April the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation (PVMBG) escalated Mount Ruang’s status from Normal to Alert at 10:00 am local time.

Subsequently, at 4:00 pm local time on the same day, PVMBG further elevated the status to Caution based on visual and instrumental monitoring, indicating a significant increase in volcanic activity.

In response to these developments, PVMBG urged residents within a four-kilometre radius of the active crater to remain vigilant and avoid the vicinity of the volcano.

Administratively located in Tulusan Village, Tagulandang District, Sitaro Regency, North Sulawesi, Mount Ruang was closely monitored from the Volcano Observation Post (PGA) situated in Tagulandang District.

The heightened volcanic activity culminated in a rain of gravel and sand on Tagulandang Island, instilling fear among residents.

Heruningtyas, Head of the Volcano Observation Team at the PVMBG, elaborated on the situation during a press conference in Bandung on Thursday (18 April).

Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, Heruningtyas disclosed that Mount Ruang’s status had been raised to level IV, prompting the evacuation of residents within a danger radius of six kilometres to designated safe zones.

This evacuation effort, conducted in coordination with regional authorities and the local Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD), commenced promptly following the escalation of Mount Ruang’s alert level.

Reports confirmed instances of gravel raining down on Tagulandang Island, resulting in damage to residential roofs.

Moreover, residents on the west side of Tagulandang Island contended with sand showers, necessitating the evacuation of individuals from local medical facilities and correctional institutions.

The official statement also warned residents to “be on alert for the potential ejection of rocks, hot cloud discharges and tsunami caused by the collapse of the volcano’s body into the sea.”

Mount Ruang eruption prompts urgent evacuation efforts

The eruption of Mount Ruang in North Sulawesi prompted urgent evacuation efforts, with the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) revealing that 1,585 residents out of 11,615 in Tagulandang Biaro were identified as high-risk and required immediate evacuation.

Abdul Muhari, Head of the BNPB Disaster Data, Information, and Communication Center, disclosed this information in a video broadcast from Jakarta on Thursday (18 April).

These residents lived within a 2.5-kilometre radius of the eruption material or in the west coast area of Tanggulandang Island, deemed most vulnerable to volcanic activity.

Contrary to the recommended safe zone of six kilometres from the eruption centre, the affected residents found themselves near the eruptive events.

The evacuation process commenced promptly, with approximately 800 individuals evacuating independently or being transported by ships from the Manado Search and Rescue (SAR) Office.

Some opted to climb hills, while others crossed by boat, albeit not without risk.

Reports emerged of injuries sustained by residents struck by fragments of gravel expelled during the eruption.

Among those evacuated were inmates and employees of the Ulu Siau Bangun Correctional Institution on Tagulandang Island, totalling 28 individuals.

Evacuation efforts prioritized safety and welfare, with the joint SAR Team ensuring emergency assistance and suitable facilities at evacuation sites.

BNPB announced the deployment of four ships, including an Indonesian Warship (KRI), two ferries, and a National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) vessel, to aid in the evacuation process.

Abdul Muhari underscored the significance of direct oversight from BNPB leadership to North Sulawesi, emphasizing the critical nature of the emergency response and evacuation operations.

In 2018, a major eruption of Mount Anak Krakatoa, situated between Java and Sumatra islands, caused its crater to partially collapse.

This event led to chunks of the volcano sliding into the ocean, generating a tsunami that claimed over 400 lives and left thousands injured.

Indonesia, an expansive archipelago, regularly encounters seismic and volcanic events owing to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire.”

This arc, characterized by tectonic plate collisions, extends from Japan across Southeast Asia to the Pacific basin.

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