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Volcano Warning After Indonesian Earthquake

Volcanic News: Indonesia
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March, 2007
The earthquake that killed more than 70 people in western Indonesia may have led to heightened activity at three volcanoes, experts warned Friday. Tuesday’s quake, which was followed by a powerful aftershock, flattened scores of homes and buckled roads on Sumatra island’s western side. As survivors complained that food, shelter materials and drinking water was slow in reaching them, they were warned of a new potential threat. Geologists said sensors on the slopes of three active volcanoes – Talang, Tandikat and Merapi – had detected above-average activity since the 6.3 magnitude quake. “We usually need about a month to observe whether the earthquake could trigger an eruption.” Residents living near Mount Talang – one of the country’s most active mountains – were nervous. In 2005, a minor eruption forced the evacuation of more than 2,500 people.

MONTSERRAT - Fears of a huge volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of Montserrat are mounting with reports of a huge swelling of toxic gases under the mountain's peak. The volcano's lava dome has swollen to near RECORD SIZE. It is filling with gas and debris that could spill toward a populated area in the event of a collapse or eruption, the island's chief scientists said. The volcano appears stable but a decrease in gas emissions over the last week suggests pressure could be building inside the dome. Islanders have compared the sounds of gas bursting from the dome to the roar of jet engines. Radar images show the dome has grown to around 265 million cubic yards, not far short of the record 313 million cubic yards measured before a spectacular collapse in 2003. The dome of hardened lava over Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano could collapse, sending volcanic material toward a populated area of the Caribbean island. Residents have been on alert since Dec. 24, when the dome's growth shifted toward the volcano's northwestern flank, which is home to many of the island's 5,000 inhabitants. Dome growth has increased rapidly in recent weeks. Ash from the active Soufriere Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat disrupted airport traffic Saturday in Puerto Rico, prompting delays and cancellations by several airlines. Ash from the volcano about 275 miles (about 440 kilometers) southwest of Puerto Rico often clouds the skies of the Caribbean. A large cloud of dust from the Sahara Desert also was contributing to the poor visibility.

INDONESIA - So far, nearly 150 concrete spheres have been tossed into the mud volcano abyss, too few to make a real impact. The government has given them another five weeks to make a difference, or walk away and let the volcano run its course. Critics say almost everything depends on the shape of the mammoth gullet, believed by the ball-dropping team to resemble a champagne glass, although recent sonar readings indicate its base may be larger than initially thought. "The hope is that the balls will fit snuggle at the bottom, but it is unlikely to be that simple." There apparently are several separate vents. For nine months, the gaping hole in the ground has spit out a biblical torrent of hot, black mud, swallowing thousands of homes outside Indonesia's second-largest city and attracting amazed geologists from around the world. Mud volcanos are fairly common along volatile tectonic belts and in areas rich in oil and natural gas like Indonesia. But the eruption just outside the city of Surabaya is exceptional because of the sheer volume of mud that has been surging each day from the hole - enough to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Twelve villages and 20 factories have been swallowed, with mud-caked roofs and the tops of lamp posts as the only reminders of what once was there. Engineers tried building earthen dams to hold back the sludge, but they are about to overflow. The viscosity of the mud hindered efforts to channel it into the sea. A plan to cap the volcano with concrete was abandoned almost immediately as ill-conceived.

ITALY - Stromboli Volcano - Lately the blue skies are hazy and the fresh air is powdered with volcanic ash, thanks to an eruption that began on Feb. 27. Stromboli is the most active volcano on the planet. Yet new construction has risen nearly 20 percent in the last decade, mostly multimillion-euro villas tucked into the tiny island's lush volcanic hills. And what about the people with second homes on Mount Etna and Mount Vesuvius, where developers are putting up a 450-house settlement and more than a dozen new hotels and guesthouses near Pompeii? There is precious little land to be had in Europe, and Italy in particular. Rising sea levels will only make the situation worse. A study predicts a rise of as much as 20 centimeters, cutting into both sides of Italy's peninsula, by 2030. Beach resorts in Tuscany, the Amalfi coast in the south and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia will be eroded from storm surges and larger waves. What's more, many formerly attractive resort areas on the coasts and in the interior are getting unbearably hot. Technology is what enables residents to live with the risk. Tucked inside a log cabin that serves as the volcano observatory and Civil Protection command center on the flanks of Stromboli, computers monitor the slightest fluctuation in seismic activity, soil movement, air temperature and even the lava's texture on the mountain. "We knew Stromboli was changing its pattern five hours before lava started flowing." But the technology may be too reassuring. Lava from the recent eruption has already created a new peninsula on the island, and authorities fear that violent explosions could send a big hunk of the volcano crashing into the sea, creating a tsunami.
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