Volcano Erupts on Indonesian Island Recovering From Quake and Tsunami

October 3, 2018 Updated: October 3, 2018

UPDATE: Soputan volcano has been erupting with increasing strength all day and into the evening on Oct. 3. Following the first eruption came a second at 10:44 a.m., with an ash column of around 2,000 m (6,560 feet) observed above the peak. A third eruption followed at 11:12 a.m. with an ash column height observed around 2,500 m (8,200 feet) above the summit and at 11:52 p.m., a fourth eruption expelled an ash column observed to be around 5000 m (16,400 feet) above the peak. Soputan is 1,419 m (4,655 feet) above sea level.

Into the evening, Soputan volcano erupted again, expelling an ash cloud to a height of up to 6000 m (19,700 feet) above the summit. Lava could be seen flowing down the northeast slope of the volcano as far as 2,500 m  (8,200 feet) from the summit.

One of the volcanos in the north of Sulawesi island in Indonesia has erupted after months of increased activity. The eruption comes just days after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the westerns reaches of Sulawesi, killing more than 1,300 people.

Soputan volcano erupted at 8:47 a.m. local time on the morning of Oct. 3. The eruption was accompanied by an ash plume with a height of 6,000 meters (19,700 feet), sparking a code Red warning for air traffic in the area. Footage of the ash cloud was captured by locals on their phones.

The seismic activity was reported as a continuous tremor, according to Indonesia’s Multiplatform Application for Geohazard Mitigation and Assessment (MAGMA) program, which is part of its Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation (PVMBG). Reports said that ash emissions were continuing to be expelled from the volcano.

Local volcanologists with the PVMBG had been warning hours before the eruption that “the potential for an eruption at Soputan has increased” after they reported signs of greater thermal and seismic activity at the site. As a result, an exclusion zone and a Level III standby warning had been put in place around the volcano just hours before the explosion.

MAGMA tweeted that the four kilometer exclusion zone remained in place, and has been increased to 6.5 kilometers on the west-southwest slopes, in order to avoid the threat of lava and pyroclastic clouds from the stratovolcano. Historically, eruptions at Soputan volcano have been characterized by hot pyroclastic clouds and lava flows on the west-southwest, north and east of the dome.

Locals have been recommended to wear masks cover the nose and mouth to reduce respiratory agitation from the ash. No evacuation has been ordered at this time.

While the population surrounding Soputan was not impacted by the tsunami that killed more than 1,300 people in the island’s west, the whole area has been experiencing significant seismic activity and tremors. Soputan volcano is about 600 km northeast of Palu and surrounding tsunami-struck areas where rescue operations continue in the hopes of finding survivors.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said late on Oct. 2 that rescuers had reached all four of the island’s districts that were badly affected by the Sept. 28 earthquake and tsunami. Together, the districts have a population of 1.4 million.

“We hope the death toll does not rise,” he said. “We’re continuing rescue operations but right now the team is racing against time.”

Damage in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
An aerial view of Petobo sub-district following an earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Oct. 2, 2018. (Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimaja/ via Reuters)

He gave few details of the conditions rescuers had found, saying they were similar to those in Palu, where the quake brought down hotels, shopping malls, and countless houses, while tsunami waves as high as six meters (20 feet) scoured its beachfront shortly afterwards.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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