Thousands in Indonesia flee after volcano erupts


Rescue workers in Indonesia have been scrambling since Tuesday to take thousands of people to safety after a volcano on Ruang Island has already erupted five times. Authorities were even forced to close a nearby airport in Manado on the island of Sulawesi and issue a tsunami warning.

The crater of Mount Ruang continued to spew lava overnight with electrical storms raging. The volcano erupted for the first time on Tuesday evening before erupting four more times on Wednesday. This forced authorities to raise its alert level to the highest level – level 4.

Authorities say they fought an uphill battle to take 11,000 residents from nearby areas to safety. This includes those on the remote Tagulandang Island, home to about 20,000 people.

Some panicked residents tried to flee themselves, according to officials.

“Residents were terrified and started to flee because of the volcanic eruptions and rocks that fell around them,” says Jandry Paendong, an official from the local search and rescue agency.

He says 20 staff members helped take residents along the coastline near the volcano to safety on rubber boats.

Tourists and residents have been warned not to come closer than six kilometers to the volcano.

More than 800 people were initially evacuated from Ruang to nearby Tagulandang Island after the first eruption on Tuesday evening.

Tsunami warning

Authorities also warned that a possible tsunami due to the volcanic eruptions could cause further destruction.

“Inhabitants of Tagulandang Island, especially those who live near the beach, must be aware of the possible ejection of glowing rocks, hot clouds and a tsunami that could be caused by the spilling of the volcano into the sea,” Hendra Gunawan said. , head of Indonesia’s volcanology agency, said on Wednesday.

The authorities’ fears are fueled by past experiences.

In 2018, the crater of Mount Anak Krakatoa between the islands of Java and Sumatra partially collapsed. A large volcanic eruption caused large pieces of the volcano to end up in the sea. This caused a tsunami in which more than 400 people died and thousands were injured.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago (island group), regularly experiences seismic and volcanic activity due to its position in the Pacific Ocean’s “ring of fire”, a region where tectonic plates collide.