Indonesia volcano eruption closes more airports; ash reaches Malaysia

On the photos: Mount Ruang volcano spewing volcanic materials during an eruption in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, 30 April 2024 and Mount Ruang volcano spewing smoke following its eruption, as seen from Tagulandang island, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, 01 May 2024 EPA/PVMBG

Eruptions of a remote Indonesian volcano prompted more than half a dozen airports to shut with ash reaching as far as Malaysia, officials said Wednesday, as authorities scrambled to evacuate hundreds due to tsunami worries, reported AFP. 

Mount Ruang erupted three times on Tuesday, sending lava and ash more than five kilometres (three miles) into the sky and prompting officials to issue evacuation orders for 12,000 residents.

A rescue ship and a warship were ordered to assist transfer of hundreds from adjacent Tagulandang island north to Siau island because of a warning of pieces of the volcano collapsing into the water perhaps generating a tsunami.

Rosalin Salindeho, a 95-year-old inhabitant of Tagulandang in Indonesia's far-flung North Sulawesi province, expressed her concerns when Ruang erupted after landing in Siau.

"The mountain exploded. Wow, it was horrible. There were rains of rocks. Twice. The second one was really heavy, even the houses far away were also hit," she said.

The nation's meteorological service (BMKG) posted a graphic on Wednesday morning that indicated volcanic ash had reached as far as eastern Malaysia on Borneo island, which the country shares with Indonesia and Brunei.

According to a notice from state-run air traffic control provider AirNav Indonesia, the spread of volcanic ash forced the closure of seven airports, including the largest in the provincial capital Manado and the city of Gorontalo.

On Wednesday morning, Julius Ramopolii, head of Mount Ruang's monitoring site, reported that the volcano was still spewing ash and smoke over the crater.

"The volcano is visibly seen, the plume of smoke is visible, grey and thick, and reached 500-700 metres (2,300 feet) above the crater," he said in a press release.

He said the alert level remained at its highest of a four-tiered system and appealed to people to keep outside of a seven-kilometre exclusion zone.

The tsunami fears were informed by recent experience.

The crater of Mount Anak Krakatoa, between Java and Sumatra islands, also partially collapsed in 2018 when a big eruption sent enormous sections of the volcano falling into the ocean, producing a tsunami that killed more than 400 people and wounded hundreds.

Indonesia, a huge archipelago country, is subject to regular seismic and volcanic activity owing to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire". /BGNES