In August 2010, Indonesia's Sinabung volcano roared back to life with its first eruption in known history. The volcano emitted diffuse white plumes that rose 20 m (65 feet) above the crater and showed signs of increased activity on August 28.
On August 29, rumbling sounds coming from the volcano prompted authorities to contact and move people living within 5 km (3.1 miles) radius from the volcano. Later that day, an explosion produced an ash plume that rose 1.5 km (4 920 feet) above the crater (3 960 m (12 992 feet) above the sea level), and Alert Level was raised to 4 (on a scale of 1 to 4).
The next day, a second, more powerful, eruption generated an ash plume that rose 2 km (5 561 feet) above the crater. Ashfall and strong sulfur odor was reported in nearby areas. Media reports mentioned the number of evacuated people ranged from 20 000 to 30 000.
Seismicity at Sinabung fluctuated until September 2013, when dense white plumes started rising 100 to 150 m (328 to 492 feet) above the crater.
Sinabung's first major eruption in known history occurred on September 17, 2013. According to the Darwin VAAC, a pilot observed an ash plume rising to an altitude of 6.1 km (20 000 feet) above the sea level and drifting 55 km (34.2 miles) to the southeast.
Video courtesy of VolcanoDiscovery
Series of eruptions that followed in the months ahead completely changed the landscape around the volcano and the lives of thousands of people living on its slopes.
Video courtesy PhotoVolcanica. January 22, 2014.
First direct victims
On February 1, 2014, several moderately large pyroclastic flows claimed lives of at least 14 people – the first direct victims of volcano's eruption. However, by that time, the ongoing eruptions have already claimed the lives of 31 evacuees, as a result of various illnesses such as breathing difficulties, depression, asthma and hypertension.
Video courtesy PhotoVolcanica. January 22, 2014.
Video courtesy Earth Uncut TV
Ever since, the volcano's eruption continues with little changes. Slow lava extrusion at the summit results in occasional small to moderate pyroclastic flows.
PVMBG reported that during December 21 – 28, 2015 inclement weather sometimes prevented visual observations of Sinabung and the growing lava dome in the summit crater. As many as 21 hot avalanches and pyroclastic flows traveled 0.7 – 1.5 km (0.43 – 0.93) ESE, producing ash plumes that rose 1 km (3 280 feet). Ash plumes from explosions rose as high as 3 km (9 842 feet) and drifted E and SW. Seismicity consisted of avalanche and pyroclastic-flow signals, low-frequency and hybrid events, tremor, tectonic events, and volcanic earthquakes. Seismicity fluctuated at high levels, although it had declined compared to the previous week, and indicated lava-dome growth.
Based on information from PVMBG, ground reports, and satellite images, the Darwin VAAC reported that during January 6 – 12, 2016 ash plumes from Sinabung rose to altitudes of 3.7 – 4.3 km (12 000 – 14 000 feet) a.s.l. and drifted 15 – 40 km (9.3 – 24.8 miles) SW, W, NW, and NE.
Sinabung erupting on January 16, 2016. Image credit: #SadrahPS
The Alert Level remains at 4 (on a scale of 1 to 4), indicating that people within 7 km (4.3 miles) of the volcano on the SSE sector, and within 6 km (3.7 miles) in the ESE sector, should evacuate.
Gunung Sinabung is a Pleistocene-to-Holocene stratovolcano with many lava flows on its flanks. The migration of summit vents along a N-S line gives the summit crater complex an elongated form. The youngest crater of this conical, 2 460-m-high (8 070 feet) andesitic-to-dacitic volcano is at the southern end of the four overlapping summit craters.
An unconfirmed eruption was noted in 1881, and solfataric activity was seen at the summit and upper flanks in 1912.
No confirmed historical eruptions were recorded prior to explosive eruptions during August – September 2010 that produced ash plumes to 5 km (16 404 feet) above the summit. (GVP)
Featured image: Sinabung's eruption in January 2014. Credit: Photovolcanica.
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