News / Asia

Indonesia's Mount Sinabung Volcano Claims 15 Lives

Villagers flee as Mount Sinabung releases pyroclastic flows during an eruption in Namantaran, North Sumatra, Feb. 1, 2014.
Villagers flee as Mount Sinabung releases pyroclastic flows during an eruption in Namantaran, North Sumatra, Feb. 1, 2014.
Kate Lamb
Mount Sinabung, an active volcano on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, has been spewing ash for months, but a sudden eruption has killed at least 15 people in recent days.
 
Officials have been cautiously exploring ash-engulfed terrain to recover the victims of Saturday’s blasts, but eruptions Sunday and Monday continue to hamper recovery efforts.
 
Victims who perished in the consecutive, pyroclastic blasts include a group of students, their teacher, and a reporter. Three local residents believed to be visiting a family grave were also among those killed.
 
The visiting student group was reportedly distributing aid on behalf of the Christian Students Movement.
 
Officials said the victims ignored the warnings to avoid the designated hazard zone, including the village of Sukameriah, which is located less than three kilometers from Mount Sinabung’s summit.
 
Surono, head of the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation, said his agency has warned local residents to avoid that area for months.
 
"This is a very bad situation but before the eruptions in 2013 we continued to [educate]… the people around the Sinabung, the dangers of Sinabung, and how to anticipate it if there is an eruption," said Surono.
 
More than 30,000 people have evacuated the surrounding area since Mount Sinabung started spewing ash clouds, lava and rocks last September.
 
Volcanic activity intensified from mid to late January, with up to 20 eruptions per day before the fatal blasts.
 
Surono said his agency and the local community remain on high alert, but the frequency of eruptions, down to ten per day, suggest the level of volcanic activity on Mount Sinabung may be decreasing.
 
Indonesia, which straddles major tectonic fault lines known as the Pacific Ring Fire, is home to 129 active volcanoes.
 
The most active of those is Mount Merapi. Eruptions from Merapi killed more than 350 people in central Java in 2010.
 
Comparing the two volcanoes, Surono said Sinabung is unlikely to unleash that much damage.
 
“Merapi, the dangerous zone was about 20 kilometers from the summit. Sinabung, it is only five kilometers… If I look at the quantity of information and volcanic activity I think Sinabung is not comparable with Merapi,” said Surono.
 
However, big or small, Surono said volcanic eruptions are always dangerous, especially when people get too close.
 
On Monday, the spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency confirmed that areas around three separate volcanoes, in Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara, had been placed on high alert.
 
Communities in those areas are now being advised to prepare to evacuate.

  • Mount Sinabung spews ash as seen from Payung village in Karo district, North Sumatra province, Indonesia, Feb. 3, 2014.
  • Ash-covered motorcycles are pictured as a rescue team walks by following the Mount Sinabung eruption at Suka Meriah village in Karo, North Sumatra province, Feb. 2, 2014.
  • A police officer walks through ash during rescue operations after the Mount Sinabung eruption, near Suka Meriah village in Karo, North Sumatra province Feb. 2, 2014.
  • Nurses dress a victim of the eruption of Mount Sinabung for burial at a hospital in Kabanjahe, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Feb. 1, 2014.
  • Villagers flee as Mount Sinabung releases pyroclastic flows during an eruption in Namantaran, North Sumatra, Feb. 1, 2014.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs