Volcano erupts on Indonesian island that had earthquake and tsunami

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A volcano has erupted on the same Indonesian island where an earthquake and tsunami claimed more than 1,300 lives last week.

Mount Soputan, located in North Sulawesi, erupted just before 9am on Wednesday local time with ash spewing up to 4,000 metres into the air.

‘The ash column with strong pressure was observed to be gray to brown with thick intensity inclined towards west & northwest,’ national disaster management agency BNPB Indonesia tweeted.

There are no current reports of evacuations or damage as a result of the eruption. 

The BNPD says the current alert for Mount Soputan is a level three ‘ on the four-level national volcano warning scale, which means anyone within a 4km radius should remain indoors.

It also encouraged people to remain calm as the Mount Soputan observation post continues to monitor volcanic activity.

The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM) also advised residents to refrain from entering the area around Mount Soputan.

Volcanic ash is drifting to the west and northwest.

‘This means that the volcanic ash will not disrupt flights. Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado is still operating normally, as it is located southeast of the mountain,’ CVGHM said in a statement.

‘We also suggest residents to use dust masks to avoid any potential respiratory problems in the event of falling ash.’

While Sam Ratulangi International Airport is still operating as normal, pilots are warned to be aware of volcanic ash, which is hazardous for plane engines.

The North Sulawesi Disaster Mitigation Agency has distributed masks to residents of the affected areas, The Jakarta Post reported.

Residents on the riverbank of Ranowangko, Lawian, Popang and Kelewahu have been warned of potential lava flow in the case of rain. 

The eruption comes just five days after a massive earthquake struck the island, triggering a tsunami and killing at least 1,300 people, while thousands more have been left homeless.

The devastating 7.5-magnitude quake struck central Sulawesi last Friday, which brought down hotels, shopping malls and countless houses in Palu.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is monitoring the situation.

‘At this stage are not aware of the Soputan volcano eruption adversely impacting aid delivery to the tsunami affected regions in Central Sulawesi,’ a spokesperson told news.com.au. 

Tsunami waves as high as six metres (20 feet) scoured its beachfront shortly afterwards.

Families have combed through body bags in a desperate attempt to identify their missing relatives.

Nearly 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Palu alone, and hospitals were overwhelmed.

 Among the dead are dozens of students whose lifeless bodies were pulled from their landslide-swamped church in Sulawesi.

‘A total of 34 bodies were found by the team,’ an Indonesia Red Cross spokeswoman told AFP.

She said rescuers faced an arduous trek to reach the mudslide and retrieve the victims.

‘The most challenging problem is travelling in the mud as much as 1.5 hours by foot while carrying the bodies to an ambulance,’ she said.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned Monday that there were 191,000 people in urgent need of help after the quake-tsunami, among them 46,000 children and 14,000 elderly – many in areas that aren’t the focus of government recovery efforts.

The dead – many yet uncounted, their bodies still trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings – are also a source of concern for authorities.

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