Officials Urge Residents to Remain Calm as Mount Merapi Erupts

Indonesian villagers look for their belongings in in an area which was swept by hot ash when Mount Merapi erupted in Balerante Village, Klaten, in this file photo. (EPA Photo/Mohammad Ali)

Indonesian villagers look for their belongings in in an area which was swept by hot ash when Mount Merapi erupted in Balerante Village, Klaten, in this file photo. (EPA Photo/Mohammad Ali)

Indonesian officials urged people living near Mount Merapi, Central Java to remain calm as the volcano belched thick black smoke and volcanic ash into the air.

“We hope people living near Merapi will stay calm — do not be easily provoked by unclear sources,” Surono, the head of the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG), told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.

Surono said, despite the increasing volcanic activity, the situation in Merapi was still considered normal.

“We will evaluate whether the volcanic activity will increase to magmatic activity level,” he said.

Mount Merapi erupted on Monday morning at 4:15 a.m, spewing volcanic ash and black smoke up to a 1,000 meter radius from its peak.

Spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said hundreds of people living near the mountain have been evacuated.

“Those who live in Kemalang and Klaen evacuated to a Kemalang sub-district office while those who live in Cangkringan evacuated to Glagah Harjo hall,” he said.

Sutopo said some of the evacuees have returned to their homes and only women, elderly and children stayed in the shelter.

Eni Pudyastuti, resident of Wonorejo village, located 10 kilometers from Merapi, said she heard the rumbling noise early in the morning and saw that many houses had been covered in volcanic ash.

“But the volcanic ash was nowhere near as bad as it was it 2010,” she said.

Merapi last erupted in October 2010, spewing enormous amounts of ash. Pyroclastic flows, fast-moving currents of superheated gas and rock, killed more than 300 people along the heavily populated slopes and forced 350,000 to evacuate.

Meanwhile, another volcano, the 1,500-meter Mount Lokon in North Sulawesi also erupted at 5:06 a.m. spewing a column of ash and smoke 2,000 meters up into the sky and spreading ash on the southern flank of the mountain.

Farid Sukendar, the head of the vulcanology observation post monitoring Mount Lokon, said that the eruption came as a surprise as the last eruption had taken place on July 5.

Farid said there were no casualties or damage from the eruption. The authority did not see the need to evacuate anyone from the slope of the volcano.

“We, residents of Tomohon, should continue to be vigilant, especially those living on the slopes of Mount Lokon,” Tomohon mayor Jemmy Eman said.

He said that this office has immediately prohibited climbing on Mount Lokon. In the mountain’s previous eruption in 2011, some 5,000 people living high on the slope of the mountain had to be evacuated. By Dessy Sagita & SP/Bernardus Wijayaka, Jakarta Globe

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