Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Headline Places - Eruptions of Mount Sinabung

Location: Sumatra, Indonesia

Volcanologists are having a field day while surrounding inhabitants fled amidst the clapping eruptions and spewing smoke from Mount Sinabung. Active and dormant volcanoes straddled the world's fourth populous country of Indonesia, itself a collection of islands along the Pacific Ring of Fire crossing the Southeast Asian region.

There are approximately 130 active volcanoes across Indonesia, but Mount Sinabung has recently garnered headlines when it started erupting in September 2013, and has not stop to date. Indonesian government has evacuated everyone in a 5-km radius zone, a zone which may expand depending on the situation. Dozens of eruptions were recorded on Saturday (Jan 4, 2014), a number which varies from 30 to 77 times, from the 2,500 meters tall volcano, triggering a flurry of panicked evacuations and igniting a scene not unlike an apocalyptic movie.

Question: Where is Mount Sinabung in Indonesia?

The deadly beauty of Mount Sinabung eruptions as captured in this photo. Dozens of eruptions on Saturday triggered panic evacuations in a 5km radius zone (image taken from Los Angeles Times),

Indonesia is a volcanologist's paradise, holding the notorious distinction of some of the largest eruptions in history including the famous 1883 Krakatoa eruption with globally climate changing effect, the largest recorded eruption by Mount Tambora in 1815, and the Toba supereruption which was hypothesized to have affected the extinction of 60% of human population.

Mount Sinabung lies in the northern half of Sumatra, the western island of the chain forming the nation. The island formed an important protective barrier against the monsoon winds from the west, allowing a safe passage for cargo ships through the Straits of Malacca, hence Singapore and Malacca's value as a seaport from centuries ago.

Although Mount Sinabung has been spewing ash in multiple eruptions since August 2010, it is not considered a major volcano as it had been inactive for nearly four centuries before its recent awakening. The Mount Merapi eruption in 2006 and 2010 had killed more and been even more violent. Even so, more than 20,000 people had been displaced by the disaster and it was fortunate that no casualties had been reported. It was interesting to note that it was only about 50km away from Toba, which aforementioned supereruption reached apocalyptic levels.

A map showing locations of major volcanoes of Indonesia. An obvious pattern can be traced along the southwesterly direction along the chain of islands. Mount Sinabung is not shown in this map (image taken from Wikipedia).

Some of the photos I encountered in Avaxnews proved the most memorable, the haunting gray scale images showing the aftermath of the November eruptions.

Indonesian school boys walk past plants covered by ash from Sinabung volcano after it erupted several times recently, in Karo on November 8, 2013 (Photo by AFP Photo/ATAR) (image and caption taken from Avaxnews).

Students walks between chilli trees covered by ash from Sinabung Mount as they return home at Kuta Rakyat village in Karo district, Indonesia's north Sumatra province November 8, 2013 (Photo by Roni Bintang/Reuters) (image and caption taken from Avaxnews).

A hand print is seen on the hood of a car covered with volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Sinabung, in Tiga Nderket village on November 4, 2013 (Photo by Binsar Bakkara/Associated Press) (image and caption taken from Avaxnews).

A woman in Sibintun village looks on as Mount Sinabung spews ash (Photo by Roni Bintang/Reuters) (image and caption taken from Avaxnews).

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