Mount Merapi Volcano – Giver of life/death

Blistering gas from Indonesia’s most volatile volcano spewed farther than expected Friday, incinerating houses at the edge of the danger zone, triggering chaotic evacuations and pushing the death toll above 100. Soldiers joined overnight rescue operations in Bronggang, nine miles from the crater of Mount Merapi, pulling at least 58 corpses from smoldering homes and streets blanketed by ash up to one foot deep. Volcanic ash from its frequent eruptions makes the soil fertile enough to support a large population, but it poses a constant threat to the tens of thousands of people who live in its shadow.

MountMerapiErupt_NASANASA image courtesy Robert Simmon and Jesse Allen using data from the NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Holli Riebeek

The Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation reported that two pyroclastic flows moved down the volcano on October 30. A pyroclastic flow is an avalanche of extremely hot gas, ash, and rock that tears down the side of a volcano at high speeds. The ASTER sensor imaged one of those flows. Merapi shows no signs of slowing its eruption. After several days of eruptive episodes, the volcano began a more intense eruption on November 3 that was ongoing on November 4. The eruption is five times more intense than the eruption on October 26 and has lasted more than 24 hours, making it the most violent eruption at the volcano since the 1870s, said local geologists.

Dozens of injured people – with clothes, blankets and even mattresses fused to their skin by the 1,400 degree Fahrenheit (750 degree Celsius) gas clouds – were carried away on stretchers. Authorities extended Mount Merapi’s danger zone by three miles to 12 miles from the crater after the new eruption, said Subandrio, a state volcanologist.

Picture from Google Earth of the Indonesian Archipelago’s volcanic ring

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Posted by on November 5, 2010. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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2 Responses to Mount Merapi Volcano – Giver of life/death

  1. Krell

    November 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Very interesting stuff, Holte. I remember when Mt St Helens blew its top and the incredible amount of destruction. It is almost not imaginable the power of volcanic pressure.

    I was in that area about 6 years later and picked up a tourist souvenir. It was a little square clear plastic thing with 3 compartments. It had volcanic ash from 10 miles away, 50 miles away, and 100 miles away.

    Great photos!

    • Holte Ender

      November 5, 2010 at 4:26 pm

      The pictures really give a feel for the geography. With all the volcanic activity it’s easy to understand why there are so many islands in that part of the world.