02/03/2014, 00.00
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Indonesia: Sinabung death toll rises to 15, maximum alert for three more volcanoes

by Mathias Hariyadi
The experts are closely following the evolution of some eruptive phenomena in Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara. In North Sumatra is the funeral of the victims of Sinabung volcano, including four children. At least 22 thousand people displaced, the churches in the diocese have offered hospitality and shelter to survivors.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Indonesian Civil Protection has issued a state of high alert for the areas surrounding the three volcanoes that are still active in the archipelago, while the population of North Sumatra celebrated the funerals of the 15 victims (so far confirmed ) caused by the eruption of Sinabung . The level 3 alarm is the penultimate in a scale of four and according to the spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency ( Bnpb ) Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, indicates that " an eruption or disaster could occur at any moment".  Karangetang and Lokon on Sulawesi, and the Rokatenda in the province of East Nusa Tenggara are being closely monitored.

Meanwhile, the level 4 alert for the volcano Sinabung remains in place, where intense activity had been registered over the past months, before the disastrous eruption over the weekend. It is located in the Karo district in North Sumatra province, the mountain is 2,400 meters high and in the summer of 2010 had already resumed activity after centuries of being dormant (the last episode dated back to 1600) , resulting in more than 12 thousand displaced and a thick blanket of smoke and fog. Since September last year the eruptions had become more and more intense, to the point of generating widespread alarm among authorities and the sudden flight of thousands of people seeking shelter .

The situation precipitated over the weekend, when the volcano activity intensified to the point of eruptions of thick layers of ash, lapillus and black smoke. The cloud covered the entire area around the crater, killing at least 15 people, including four children. At least three people sustained serious injuries, with signs of extensive burns all over their bodies, while there are more than 22 thousand displaced with some seeking refuge in government reception centers and others being welcomed in churches and in Catholic diocesan structures.

Meanwhile, the controversy rages on civil protection measures.  Widespread warnings and the creation of a "5 km danger zone" did not stop a group of students approaching the crater and being caught up in the eruption.

Many blame a lack of adequate attention to the danger posed by the volcano by both government and media; agencies and newspapers in fact focused on the floods in Jakarta and the Island of Java, overshadowing the Sinabung tragedy. Antonius Prihartono Yudo, a Catholic from Central Java , told AsiaNews that the situation remains "critical" and the links remain difficult due to the heavy floods. After days of "hundreds of homes are still under water" in Pemalang, due to the flooding of the Comal River.

The Indonesian archipelago is made up of thousands of islands and atolls surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, in an area known by scientists as the "Ring of Fire". It is characterized by intense volcanic and seismic activity, caused by the collision of several continental plates. Memories of the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the region in December 2004 are still alive in peoples minds, with an epicenter off the coast of Aceh, causing hundreds of thousands of victims throughout Asia. On 30 October 2009, another strong earthquake affected the area of ​​Padang resulting in about 700 deaths. Over 180 houses were razed to the ground.  Currently, experts have ranked 19 other volcanoes scattered throughout the country at "level two alert", or subject to close monitoring.


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