Red Alert for Mount Bromo Volcano

Jakarta. Those in the vicinity of Mount Bromo remained on high alert on Wednesday as the East Java administration said it was preparing nearby residents for evacuation if needed.

Syaifullah Yusuf, the province’s deputy governor, said on Wednesday that his administration had prepared Rp 2.5 billion ($280,000) in emergency funding for disaster relief operations.

“Residents who are near the volcano must move away without panicking and ignoring procedures,” he said. “Residents must abide by the government’s recommendation.”

East Java’s Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) has not yet decided if it will start evacuating people, but has told residents to be ready.

“We are still monitoring the volcano’s activities. If the eruption is similar to that in 2004, we do not think it will be necessary to evacuate residents,” said Sahrul Arifin, head of the BPBD, referring to Bromo’s last eruption that killed two tourists who were trekking on the peak.

According to the provincial administration’s data, there are 4,849 people living in villages located about five kilometers from the volcano.

On Tuesday afternoon, Bromo’s status was raised to “beware,” the highest alert level before an eruption, and people were barred from within a three-kilometer radius of the volcano’s crater.

Surono, head of the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency (PVMBG) said on Wednesday that Bromo was still spewing smoke that reached 200 meters into the air, but added that the smoke did not contain dangerous materials.

Surono said even though activity at Bromo remained high, the danger level was much lower than that of Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta, which has erupted repeatedly since Oct. 26.

“Don’t compare the two. Merapi is a lot more dangerous than Bromo,” he said.

Despite the raised warning level, Surono said that there was no need for residents to panic.

Lava from Bromo was highly unlikely to affect nearby residential areas even at the height of its eruptive phase, he said.

Commenting on the PVMBG’s assessment, Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik reiterated the need to keep a safe distance from the volcano.

“People are not allowed to get too close to the mountain’s peak, but they can still go to the two villages,” he said at the State Palace, referring to the tourist pit stops of Cemoro Lawang and Wonokitri.

The 2,330-meter mountain is a popular tourist destination located at the confluence of the East Java districts of Probolinggo, Pasuruan, Lumajang and Malang.

Indonesia has the most active volcanoes in the world. The archipelago straddles on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of a intense volcanic and seismic activity around the Pacific Ocean.

A series of recent eruptions at Merapi has sent ash, debris and bursts of hot gases toward the city of Yogyakarta, leaving more than 300 people dead and thousands more displaced.

Meanwhile, in the Sunda Strait, volcanologists are also monitoring the uninhabited Anak Krakatau, classified as a growing volcano that regularly spews smoke and molten rocks.

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