Indonesians Evacuate as Nearby Volcano Eruption Forces Airport Closure Due to Ash Threat

Indonesians Evacuate as Nearby Volcano Eruption Forces Airport Closure Due to Ash Threat

Indonesian officials shut down an airport and prompted evacuations near Mount Ruang as it erupted on Thursday, endangering residents with ash, rockfalls, pyroclastic flows, and the potential for a tsunami.

Mount Ruang, located on Sulawesi Island’s northern side, experienced multiple significant eruptions on Wednesday. This activity led the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation to declare the highest level of alert due to the ongoing eruption.

Indonesians Evacuate as Nearby Volcano Eruption Forces Airport Closure Due to Ash Threat

During Thursday, the volcano continually spewed white-gray smoke, which rose over 500 meters (1,640 feet) above its peak.

Authorities mandated an evacuation zone extending at least 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the 725-meter (2,378 foot) tall mountain. Of the more than 11,000 residents in the danger area, at least 800 have already evacuated.

An international airport in nearby Manado city had to halt operations on Thursday due to the volcanic ash cloud. “We have to close flight operations at Sam Ratulangi Airport due to the spread of volcanic ash, which could endanger flight safety,” reported Ambar Suryoko, head of the regional airport authority.

The volcanology center highlighted additional risks, noting the potential for part of the volcano to collapse into the sea, possibly triggering a tsunami. This scenario prompted specific warnings for Tagulandang Island to the east, where evacuation orders were particularly urgent.

“People who live in the Tagulandang Island area and are within a 6-kilometer radius must be immediately evacuated to a safe place outside the 6-kilometer radius, and especially those who live near the coast should be aware of the potential for incandescent rocks to erupt, hot clouds and tsunami waves that could be triggered by the collapse of a volcanic body into the sea,” explained Abdul Muhari, spokesperson of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Evacuees are being relocated to Manado, a six-hour boat ride from the affected region.

Historically, volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, such as those from Mount Ruang in 1871 and Anak Krakatau in 2018, have caused devastating tsunamis. The Anak Krakatau eruption resulted in part of the volcano collapsing into the ocean, leading to a tsunami that killed 430 people along the coasts of Sumatra and Java islands.

With 120 active volcanoes, Indonesia is frequently subject to volcanic activity due to its location along the “Ring of Fire,” the Pacific basin rim marked by frequent earthquakes and eruptions.

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