Ijen Crater tourist site closed due to toxic gases

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Bondowoso, East Java | Thu, March 22, 2018 | 05:59 pm

The Ijen Crater tourist site located within the borders of Banyuwangi and Bondowoso regencies in East Java has been temporarily closed to tourists, climbers and miners due to the presence of toxic gases.

The crater reportedly began spewing toxic gases on Wednesday night, poisoning 30 people who live in four villages at the slope of Mount Ijen. They were taken to Puskesmas Ijen, a community health center in Bondowoso, on Thursday.

Banyuwangi Natural Resources Conservation Agency section head Sumpena told The Jakarta Post that the affected residents lived in Margahayu, Watu Capil, Curah Macan and Sempol villages.

"There are 30 people who got poisoned and 13 of them are still being treated at Puskesmas Ijen. The spewing of toxic gases cannot be predicted and fortunately it happened at 7 p.m., before tourists arrived. They usually climb [the mountain] at 12 a.m. to watch the blue fire. Prior to the spewing of toxic gases, there was an explosion at the Ijen Crater followed by smoke that blew with the wind to the west of Bondowoso," Sumpena said by phone.

He added that following an agency investigation, it was determined that the villages that were affected by the toxic gases had slowly returned to normal and the color of the smoke had reportedly turned from green to grayish-white under the sun.

"For security purposes, visits to the Mount Ijen Crater area have been stopped until further notice. We're still coordinating with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry's Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center (PVMBG), the city's disaster mitigation agency (BPBD), the Bondowoso Health Agency and the regional administration to coordinate over the safety of the people," said Sumpena.

The head of the Bondowoso BPBD emergency, preparedness and prevention department, Winarto, said that members of the BPBD, the police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) had been deployed to the four aforementioned villages to handle the situation and prepare for future incidents. (kes)