March 18, 2011

Indonesian Volcano Causes Red Alert

A volcanologist said on Friday that Indonesia issued a red alert after Mount Karangetang on the island of Sulawesi erupted, sending lava and searing gas clouds down its slopes.

"We raised the volcano's status to the highest red alert level today at 5:45 pm (1045GMT) and ordered an evacuation in three villages on the slopes," government volcanologist Surono told AFP.

He said that the 5,850-foot mountain on the island off North Sulawesi oozed lava, heat clouds and debris reaching as far as 12,467-feet down its slopes.

"The eruption is still going on and its current activity remains high," he said.

"The main threat is heat clouds that will be fatal for people living in villages on the slope."

A government official in the region said three villages of about 300 people have been evacuated, but 40 people are trapped between two lava rivers.

Surono said Mount Karangetang erupts frequently but the alert level was raised because of the size of the hot clouds.

The volcano killed four people during an eruption in August 2010.

Indonesia is located on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where continental plates collide and cause seismic and volcanic activity.

Image Courtesy Rheka/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)