Two Volcanoes Get Ready To Blow

Authorities raised the alert status of two volcanoes to the second-highest level over the weekend and told people to stay up to six kilometers away from the craters .

The alert was raised on Sunday for Mount Soputan in North Sulawesi, just a day after being lifted for Mount Papandayan in Garut, West Java.

“We decided to raise the alert level of Mount Soputan from ‘beware’ to ‘alert’ this afternoon following more frequent earthquakes and volcanic ash,” said Surono, who heads the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency (PVMBG).

Soputan, one of Sulawesi’s most active volcanoes, erupted in July, spewing ash up to 5,000 meters into the air and shutting down Sam Ratulangi Airport in the capital, Manado, for three hours.

But the alert level was lowered to “beware” after volcanic activity eased.

On Sunday, Soputan erupted at least twice and spewed volcanic ash 1,000 meters into the air.

Surono said the agency had banned all activity within six kilometers of the crater.

“It’s a big danger zone because the expulsion of volcanic ash has been quite powerful,” he said. “We are afraid lava rocks could travel far, but fortunately there are no residential areas within an eight-kilometer radius of the crater.”

On Saturday, the level for Mount Papandayan was also raised to “alert,” and the PVMBG declared a two-kilometer exclusion zone around the crater, Surono said.

“For now, we are not too worried about a major eruption,” he said. “We are more concerned by the toxic gas.”

Papandayan bears some similarity to Mount Dieng in Central Java, which in June spewed dangerous amount of potentially lethal carbon dioxide.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said gas was coming from three craters — Walirang, Manuk and Balagadama.

He said the BNPB had dispatched a quick-response team to assess what actions the local government and agencies might need to take to ensure the safety of residents living near the volcano.

Mount Papandayan last erupted on Nov. 11, 2002. While there were no deaths, dozens of houses were destroyed.

Its earliest recorded eruption was in 1772, when it destroyed 40 villages and killed 2,951 people.

There are now five Indonesian volcanoes at alert level: Soputan, Karangetang and Lokon in North Sulawesi, Mount Ibu in North Maluku and Papandayan.