Jakarta, May 25: The death toll from the sudden eruption of Sinabung volcano in North Sumatra on Tuesday left at least seven dead and two wounded. The volcano began vomiting clouds of boiling smoke that shrouded surrounding areas. Taken by surprise, the few people who live near the mountain were not able to escape. The two injured are in reported to be in critical condition.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the Agency for the Treatment of Environmental Disasters (BNPB), stated that all the survivors were taken to hospital Efarina Etaham Kabanjahe, located 25 kilometers from the site of the eruption. Search for the survivors was still on.
All the victims were residents of Gamber village (Karo district) and it is unclear how many people were on the site at the time of the eruption. The area, very close to the volcano faults, was declared a ‘red zone’ by BNBP and all activity had been prohibited in the area for safety reasons. Despite the ban, some farmers continued to travel to Gamber to cultivate vegetables and, for economic reasons, often refused to evacuate their farms.
In recent years, Sinabung has once again become very active after a silence of 400 years. The mountain is 2,400 meters high and in the summer of 2010 caused over 12,000 displaced persons and a thick blanket of smoke and fog. In September of 2013, the eruptions became more and more intense, setting off an alert from authorities and the sudden flight of thousands of people seeking shelter. In February 2014, a toxic cloud escaping from the crater killed 15 people.
The Indonesian archipelago is made up of thousands of islands and atolls surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, in an area known by scientists as the ‘Ring of Fire’. It is characterized by intense volcanic and seismic activity, caused by the collision of several continental plates. Memories of the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the region in December 2004 are still alive in people’s minds, with an epicentre off the coast of Aceh, causing hundreds of thousands of victims throughout Asia. On October 30, 2009, another strong earthquake hit the Padang area causing around 700 deaths.
(Additional inputs from agencies)