Wednesday, February 19, 2014


    Jakarta, Feb 19, 2014 (Antara) - After an explosive eruption of Mount Kelud on February 13, 2014, the Kediri authorities and people are now bracing for rain-triggered lahars streaming from the 1,731-meter volcano.
        Mount Kelud, which is located in the border of Blitar and Kediri districts, East Java Province, spewed gravel and ash to the air at a height of 17 km, which later landed in a number of places, up to West Nusa Tenggara and West Java provinces, which are hundreds of kilometers away.

         Kelud produced hot lava and spitted volcanic materials such as gravels and ash at a volume of more than 100 million cubic meters during its eruption, according to Dr Surono, the head of the Geological department of the energy and mineral resource ministry.
        Surono said around half of the volcanic materials, or around 50 million cubic meters,  were still on the volcano's slopes after the major eruption and could flow down any time when rains fall.
        Indeed, as rains have fallen in Kelud area since the past several days, the volcanic materials have been flowing down the slopes and rivers at rapid speeds.
         This natural phenomena is called lahar, which is originally an Indonesian term for a volcanic mudflow, but the word "lahar" has been accepted internationally now.
          Lahar generated by a variety of mechanisms including by intense rainfall during or after an eruption, could be hazardous. A tragic example of such an event was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, which was contemporaneous with the arrival of a major hurricane. An estimated 700 people died from burial by the ensuing lahars, together with the collapse of structures beneath the wet ash.
          After the eruption of Mount Merapi in Central Java, in 2010, lahars damaged 860 houses and destroyed 14 sabo-dams as well as  21 bridges, according to the  Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research published in July 2013.
        As the threat of Kelud's lahars is eminent, people living in the sub-district of Ngancar, Kediri, East Java, were advised to be on alert last week.
        The head of Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG), Muhammad Hendrasto, on February 15 urged the people to stay away from the locations of lahar pockets.
        On February 18, lahars streaming from Mount Kelud and flowing into the Konto river inundated farming areas in Kandangan sub-district, Pare district and Badas sub-district, Kediri district, East Java Province.
         "Based on our colleague's monitoring this morning, lahars that had flown into the Kontor river is back to normal, but we are still collecting data on the damages done to the farming areas," Dipo, a member of the Inter-Indonesian Community Radio (RAPI), stated in the morning, on February 19.
         In Karang Tengah village, Kandangan sub-district, lahars submerged at least 50 hectares of farming areas, damaged several houses, and destroyed several dykes.
         A poultry farm with around 15 thousand chicken was swept away by the lahars and the material loss is estimated at Rp40 million. A road connecting Blimbing and Wangkalkerep villages was cut off for a length of around 20 meters.     
    As rains are predicted to fall in several days to come, people living in several villages where the Petung Kobong, Sumber Agung and Gedog rivers pass, are told to evacuate to safer places. The three main rivers' upstream are on Mount Kelud.
         Earlier, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho warned that the volcano's slopes  deposit around 50 million cubic meters and they might flow down when it rained.
          As heavy rains fell around Mount Kelud on February 18, several rivers overflowed with rain-triggered lahars.  The flooding contained volcanic materials such as sand, ash and gravels.
         The BNPB records indicated that at least five houses and a mosque had been submerged by the lahars and no casualties were reported in the incident in Kediri.
         In Malang, a small bridge had been broken, while two houses had been carried away by the lahars. There has been no information on death due to the flooding in the district.
         To anticipate more lahars, the agency has constructed dams that can accommodate up to 14.5 million meter cubic of volcanic materials. With the rivers in the region that can deposit 14 million cubic materials, the total capacity will now reach 28 million meter cubic, he said.
         "People have been ordered to stay alert and away from river banks," he pointed out.
         The authorities have also deployed a number of military officers to beef up security arrangements around the lahar canals of Mount Kelud.
         "We have continuously informed the people and checked the condition of the location. We have been monitoring the lahar canals and have urged the people not to mine sand in  the canals," Kediri Military Regional 0809 Commander Lieutenant Colonel Heriyadi stated on February 18.
         According to Heriyadi, some people have started mining sand from the canals.  "The activity is dangerous, particularly during downpours," he said, adding that lahars could sweep away the miners.
         He said the soldiers were also focusing on repair and restoration work in the Sugihwaras Village in Kediri.
         The military officers were always on vigil to avoid lahars that could endanger them. They also evaluated the total damages caused by the Mount Kelud eruption.
        The eruption of Mount Kelud forced around 200 thousand people to flee, forcing closures of airports and schools in several cities in Indonesia's most densely populated island of Java, due to its ash rains.    
    The explosive eruption affected 35 villages within a radius of 10 km from the mountain's summit. These villages are located in nine sub-districts across three districts: Blitar, Kediri and Malang.
        Mount Kelud's last major eruption was in 1990, when it spewed ash and lava that killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds. In 1919, the volcano had erupted and claimed at least 5,160 lives.  Its powerful explosion reportedly could be heard hundreds of kilometers away. ***3***

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