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Aviation braces as Indonesian volcano blasts into life

February 3, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Airlines are monitoring the world’s latest volcanic eruption, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which engulfed villages in ash at the weekend and killed at least 15 people.

Mount Sinabung spewed hot gas, ash and rocks two kilometres into the air in a series of eruptions.

For four centuries, Sinabung was dormant. Then in 2010 it blasted back to life,  forcing 30,000 people from their homes. It lapsed into dormancy again, only to erupt again last September. Many villagers had returned to their homes since, when the volcano erupted violently again at the weekend.

Sinabung is one of about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia. It has been studied less than more active volcanoes, which makes it harder to predict, experts told the BBC.

At last report, air traffic to and from the new Kuala Namu International Airport at Medan and tours to Lake Toba had not been affected – but that was before the weekend’s eruption.

Airlines keep a close watch on volcanoes, as ash clouds can drastically affect their operations. In 2010, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland sent up a colossal ash plume that grounded thousands of flights across Europe and led to weeks of disruption.

Indonesia is the world’s most seismically active region, with the greatest number of active volcanoes.

Sinabung is close to Lake Toba, the planet’s largest and deepest volcanic lake, formed by the so-called Toba Event, a super-eruption between 67,500 and 75,500 years ago. Possibly the largest explosive volcanic eruption in the past 25 million years, the Toba Event plunged the world into a long, cool twilight. It brought humanity close to extinction, according to some researchers, and is thought to have triggered an ice age.

Written by Peter Needham

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