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Volcano erupts on Sulawesi after quake and tsunami

October 4, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A volcano has erupted on Sulawesi, the same central Indonesian island slammed by last week’s earthquake and tsunami – with authorities yesterday issuing a red alert to airlines, the highest possible level, as a volcanic ash cloud spread.

Mount Soputan in North Sulawesi blasted ash 6000 metres into the air.

Indonesia’s volcanic advisory body MAGMA Indonesia lifted the VONA alert from orange to red yesterday, warning of “eruption with volcanic ash cloud at 0352 UTC (1152 local). Eruption and ash emission is continuing.”

VONA stands for Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation. A red alert, the highest of four levels, means: “Eruption is forecast to be imminent with significant emission of ash into the atmosphere likely; or, Eruption is underway with significant emission of ash into the atmosphere.”

The current VONA concerning Mount Soputan said last night: “Best estimate of ash-cloud top is around 21789 FT (6809 M) above sea level, may be higher than what can be observed clearly.”

The VONA also observed “Ash-cloud moving to northwest. Seismic activity is characterized by continuous volcanic tremor.”

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Central Sulawesi on Friday is believed to have triggered Soputan’s eruption.

The confirmed death toll from the quake and tsunami is nearing 2000, with thousands more believed killed and about 200,000 people in need of food, water or shelter, the United Nations says.

The chief of Indonesia’s Vulcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation agency told online news portal Tempo yesterday that volcanic activity had been increasing at Soputan since August – and this week it began surging.

Above: a previous eruption of Soputan Volcano, on 7 June 2008


The volcano is one of Sulawesi’s most active, with 39 confirmed eruptions in the last 600 years. Eruptive activity at Soputan typically consists of pyroclastic flows, lava flows, lava domes and Strombolian-type explosions.

MEANWHILE, in an advisory update last night, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advised Australian travellers to reconsider their need to travel to Central Sulawesi following a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, strong aftershocks and a tsunami on 28 September 2018.

“Communications and transport infrastructure in the Palu area have suffered damage,” DFAT said. “There is a risk of more aftershocks.”

DFAT advises travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia overall, including Bali”.

Written by Peter Needham

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