Indonesia monitors 11 volcanoes

Eleven volcanoes are under close watch in Indonesia after a series of powerful quakes awoke intense subterranean forces and increased the chances of a major eruption, scientists have said.

    Volcanic ash rises from Mount Talang on Sumatra island

    As tens of thousands of people spent a third night in temporary

    camps after fleeing the slopes of Mount Talang on Sumatra

    island, where hot ash has been raining down since Monday, more

    volcanoes began rumbling.

    Late on Wednesday, Anak Krakatau - the "child" of the legendary

    Krakatoa that blew itself apart in 1883 in one of the worst natural

    disasters recorded - was put on alert status amid warnings of

    poisonous gas emissions.

    No one lives on Krakatau, which forms a small island in the

    Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, but the peak is a popular

    tourist spot, attracting Indonesian and foreign day-trippers.

    Leaders to meet

    A similar warning was earlier issued on Tangkuban Perahu, near

    the west Java island city of Bandung, which will next week host more

    than 50 Asian and African heads of state at a summit

    .

    "The status of the Tangkuban Perahu in west Java and Krakatau in

    the Sunda Strait have both been raised from 'normal' to 'alert'

    Isya Nur Ahmad Dana,
    Indonesia's Volcanology Office

    Isya Nur Ahmad Dana of Indonesia's Volcanology Office said on Thursday that Mount

    Merapi, 70km north of the Sumatran city of

    Padang, had been on alert since August, but along with seven

    other peaks was now under closer watch.

    "The status of the Tangkuban Perahu in west Java and Krakatau in

    the Sunda Strait have both been raised from 'normal' to 'alert' on

    Wednesday following an observed increase in volcanic activities,"

    Dana said.

    Amid growing fears of an imminent disaster in the wake of recent

    powerful earthquakes and December's devastating tsunami,

    Indonesia's government has urged people to remain calm. 

    President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono travelled to the area around

    Talang, 25km east of Padang, to meet some of the more

    than 20,000 people who have evacuated villages on the fertile

    slopes of the smoking peak.

    Contingency plans

    Susilo's deputy Jusuf Kalla warned people living in the

    vicinity of other active volcanoes to take precautions and urged

    local officials to make contingency plans in anticipation of an

    eruption.

    "We call on the people to really be alert," he said.

    Indonesia has more than 130 volcanoes, forming part of the

    Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of intense seismic

    activity that stretches from quake-prone Japan to Southeast

    Asia and across the Pacific basin.

    Indonesia was hit by the tsunami
    on 26 December

    The archipelago nation's proximity to the junction of three

    continental plates, which collide with immense pressure, makes it

    vulnerable to earthquakes and eruptions.

    A massive magnitude 9 earthquake on 26 December triggered the

    Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 220,000 people. A second

    quake of 8.7 on the Richter scale from the same faultline killed

    670 people last month.

    Scientists have warned of a possible third disaster, with some

    predicting another quake and others an eruption from a so-called

    super volcano, such as the giant crater of Lake Toba on Sumatra

    island, where increased activity has also been recorded.

    On standby

    Scientists were unable to determine whether the peak of Mount Talang, a 2599m volcano that last

    erupted in 2003,

    was beginning to calm

    .

    "Our team are still studying the data on site and we cannot yet

    say whether the activities of Mount Talang has slowed down or energy

    is building up for a bigger eruption," Dana said.

    Krakatau and Tangkuban Perahu remained off limits to the public,

    with officials reportedly turning back dozens of sightseers.

    "We have advised the concerned local government to close them

    for visits because of the possibilities of dangerous gas emissions

    or outbursts," said Dana.

    He said there were no immediate efforts to evacuate the

    population around the Tangkuban Perahu, which straddles the

    territories of two districts and the city of Bandung, with a total

    population of 7.5 million people.

    SOURCE: AFP


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