Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan
An observation team says that Mount Sinabung in Karo regency, North Sumatra, is likely to continue erupting for quite some time following an increase in seismic activity on Monday.
As of 12 p.m. Monday, Mt. Sinabung had 148 temblors comprising 83 short-period quakes, 34 low-frequency and 31 mixed tremors.
Observation team member Arif Cahyo said Mt. Sinabung’s tectonic quakes showed that a large volume of magma was present, indicating that the volcano would continue to erupt for a long time.
“We cannot determine how long Mt. Sinabung will continue to erupt, but if we observe the increase in seismic activity, it will definite be a long time,” Arif told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Arif said that Mt. Sinabung was still erupting and emitting pyroclastic flows and volcanic ash sporadically.
He said the volcano had emitted pyroclastic clouds twice on Sunday and three times on Monday.
“Until Monday noon, the volcano discharged pyroclastic flows three times that drifted as far as 2,500 meters to the south, while volcanic ash drifted up to 1,500 meters to the east,” said Arif, who voiced fear that Berastagi city would be covered by ash that had been drifting east for the past two days.
Two weeks ago, the wind carried volcanic ash east, paralyzing trading activities as many shops were forced to close. A week later, the wind shifted to the west in the direction of the three districts of Payung, Tiganderket and Kuta Buluh. Currently, pyroclastic clouds are drifting to the east in the direction of Berastagi city.
Arif said his office had yet to recommend that the volcanic’s status be raised from alert level 3 (caution) as it considered the situation relatively safe for residents living beyond a 3-km radius of the volcano peak.
Sinabung has been erupting for the past year and has shown so signs of stopping. Fourteen people have been killed and tens of thousands of residents forced to take shelter elsewhere.
North Sumatra Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho said his administration had proposed to the central government that the current eruptions be categorized as a national disaster, as demanded by a number of provincial legislators.
However, Gatot said the proposal had not been approved by the central government as a number of criteria had not been meet, such as the number of fatalities and material losses caused by the eruptions.
“The provincial administration has conveyed the proposal, but the central government has not approved it,” Gatot told the media when he attended security preparations for the new president’s inaugural celebration at Merdeka Square in Medan on Monday.
The prolonged eruptions have taken away the livelihoods of people living around the volcano, which started erupting in September last year.
The supply of agricultural products in the regency, which is known for its oranges, has sharply decreased as volcanic ash has blanketed thousands of hectares of farmland.