Saturday, February 1, 2014

Indonesia's Mount Sinabung Turns Deadly

Indonesia's recently reactivated volcano, Mount Sinabung, has turned deadly in its eruptive phase, killing up to 14 people in its fury. The volcano has become a major disaster for Indonesia, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to be evacuated from the vicinity. Pyroclastic flows are occurring daily, as well as all of the other disasters that tend to follow Indonesian stratovolcanoes, such as lahars (hot mud slides of tephra and ash), ash fall, and of course, flowing lava.

Sinabung was suspected to never have had an historical eruption, until it reawakened in 2010. Since then it has remained quite active. During its current eruptive phase, which has turned out to be quite violent, it has had days where it has erupted over 77 times in one 24 hour period.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes spanning the borders of the Pacfic plate and its subduction zones. Indonesia has the most active volcanoes on the planet, with over 127 of them having historical records of eruption.

People in the area should be advised to stay as far away from Sinabung as the government and emergency teams request. The reason people die in Indonesian eruptions is not due to a lack of government knowledge or foresight. Typically it is due to either spiritual beliefs of sacrifice or volcano gods from tribespeople, or it is due to people coming to retrieve belongings or livestock. The recent eruption of Mount Merapi (one of Indonesias most active volcanoes) destroyed an entire village full of people that refused to leave when the government told them to. The village was hit by a fast moving, molten hot pyroclastic flow, causing some to compare their fate with the residents of the now famous Pompeii village in Italy, which was similarly wiped out by pyroclastic flow and hot ash when Mt. Vesuvius erupted.

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