Indonesian volcano sparks panic

A volcano has coughed into life on Indonesia's disaster-blighted island of Sumatra, spreading new panic in the wake of recent tsunami and earthquakes and prompting thousands to evacuate.

    Indonesia has been hit by a series of disasters recently

    Mount Talang, 40km east of West Sumatra's coastal capital Padang began spewing volcanic ash shortly before dawn on Tuesday, but scientists said there was no immediate cause for alarm beyond the immediate fall-out zone.

    "We are still monitoring the activities of the volcano but so
    far there has not been any significant volcanic temblor registered," said Sugeng of the meteorology and geophysics office in the nearby town of Padang Panjang.


    Reports said four villages on the fertile slopes of the 2599m volcano were evacuated with tens of thousands of scared residents seeking refuge several kilometres from the peak.

    Elfi Sahlan Ben, of Talang's Solok district, told the Detikcom
    news website that ash was being carried by winds farther down the slopes while strong gaseous odours were permeating the air around the mountain. 

    "We are still monitoring the activities of the volcano but so
    far there has not been any significant volcanic temblor registered"

    Meteorology and geophysics office in Padang Panjang

    The volcano's activity comes just two days after the city of
    Padang was gripped with fear following a powerful 6.7 magnitude quake that caused only minor damage, but revived memories of last December's deadly Indian Ocean tsunami.

    On Monday, the city's offices and schools were deserted, with many people having left the town to seek refuge on higher ground, their unease fuelled by rumours and scientific reports of another impending disaster.

    A massive earthquake struck off the southwest coast of Sumatra on 28 March, killing more than 600 people on the offshore islands of Nias and Simeulue - most of the victims crushed by collapsing concrete structures. 


    On 26 December last year, a magnitude 9 shockwave from the same geological faultline unleashed a tsunami that destroyed vast tracts of coast in Sumatra's westernmost Aceh region and left more then 160,000 dead or missing in the country and nearly 300,000 altogether worldwide.

    The Indonesian archipelago sits atop a series of faultlines
    where three continental plates collide with immense pressure,
    causing almost daily earthquakes and frequent eruptions from more than 130 active volcanoes.

    Thousands of Indonesians, particularly on Nias and Simeulue, have been spooked by the recent quakes and widespread rumours of another imminent disaster and have sought refuge on higher ground. 

    Last month a prominent seismologist said he could not rule out the risk of a third big quake of Sumatra, although the exact timing of the event could not be predicted. 

    "The theory is that this particular region has seismic cycles of between 150 years and 200 years. The 26 December event caused extreme disruption, and one possibility is of a cascade of quakes," said Mustapha Meghraoui, in charge of active tectonics at the Institute for Planetary Physics in Strasbourg, France.



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