Powerful explosion at Merapi volcano, Red aviation alert, airport closed


A powerful phreatic explosion took place and Indonesia's Merapi volcano at 00:30 UTC (07:30 local time) on May 11, 2018. The volcano ejected ash high into the sky, closing a major airport and forcing authorities to issue temporary evacuation orders for all residents living within 5 km (3 miles) of the crater. The Aviation Color Code was raised to Red.

According to the Darwin VAAC, a high-level eruption of Merapi volcano sent ash up to 15 km (50 000 feet). Volcanic ash to 6.7 km (22 000 feet) and 12.2 km (40 000 feet) has now become detached from the volcano and continue moving SW and SE, respectively. Subsequently, ash at these heights is gradually dissipating. Minor emission to 3.6 km (12 000 feet) is expected to be continuing, the center said 05:30 UTC.

"Volcanic ash rain has occurred in Tugu Kaliurang of Sleman district of Yogyakarta and is forecast to persist in the south of the crater," spokesman of national disaster management agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, adding that local officials have distributed masks to prevent respiratory problems.

"Local disaster agency has instructed the villagers living in the radius of 5 km (3.1 miles) from the crater to evacuate to barrack set up for evacuees and the people have responded," Sutopo told Xinhua.

The airport in Yogyakarta, the nearest big city to the volcano, was closed because of the threat from the ash, the state-owned aviation agency AirNav said.

A 3 km (1.8 miles) no-go zone has been declared by the volcanology agency.

Sutopo told reporters that 120 people who had been hiking up Merapi are safe.

At 07:00 UTC, Sutopo said there was only one eruption today, adding that volcanic activity of Mount Merapi remains normal (level 1). "There is no need for evacuation," he said in a tweet.

Thousands of people are living on the flanks of Mount Merapi, active stratovolcano regularly erupting since 1948. It is located about 28 km (17 miles) north of Yogyakarta city (population of 2.4 million).

In November 1994, a large explosion at the volcano produced pyroclastic flows that killed 27 people. 

A series of eruptions in 2010 killed 353 people. Over 350 000 were evacuated.

Geological summary

Merapi, one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, lies in one of the world's most densely populated areas and dominates the landscape immediately north of the major city of Yogyakarta. It is the youngest and southernmost of a volcanic chain extending NNW to Ungaran volcano. Growth of Old Merapi during the Pleistocene ended with major edifice collapse perhaps about 2000 years ago, leaving a large arcuate scarp cutting the eroded older Batulawang volcano. 

Subsequently growth of the steep-sided Young Merapi edifice, its upper part unvegetated due to frequent eruptive activity, began SW of the earlier collapse scarp. Pyroclastic flows and lahars accompanying growth and collapse of the steep-sided active summit lava dome have devastated cultivated lands on the western-to-southern flanks and caused many fatalities during historical time.

Featured image: Eruption of Mount Merapi, Indonesia on May 11, 2018. Credit: Sutopo Purwo Nugroho

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