JAKARTA – A highly active volcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra erupted again on Wednesday afternoon, sending searing hot clouds of gas and ash as far as 4.6 kilometers down its slopes, the country’s volcanology agency said.
The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said the major eruption of Mount Sinabung, located in North Sumatra province, occurred at 3:36 p.m. and lasted for 8 minutes. It was its biggest eruption since August.
“Smoke and volcanic ash were spewed from the crater and the ash fell on several villages around Mount Sinabung,” it said.
But no casualties were reported, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.
“Nobody panicked because almost every day they see Mount Sinabung erupting,” the agency’s spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, referring frequent smaller eruptions.
Local authorities, however, have warned people living near rivers on the slopes of the volcano to watch out for overflowing of rivers clogged with lahar, or cold lava, as it is now the rainy season.
In August 2010, the 2,460-meter volcano erupted for the first time in more than 400 years. After three years of inactivity, it erupted again in September 2013 and has remained highly active ever since.
In February 2014, 16 people were killed by a major eruption just after evacuated residents had been allowed to return home, while another seven people died in another eruption in May last year.
Villages located within the mountain’s red zone, which covers a radius of 7 km from the peak, have been evacuated.
All activities within 3 km of the peak have been prohibited since authorities raised the volcano’s alert status to the highest level in 2015. Residents, however, had ignored the warning and returned to their villages to work at plantations.
More than 3,331 families affected by previous eruptions have been relocated.
Indonesia sits in one of the most active seismic regions in the world, the Pacific Ring of Fire in which a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.