At 22.50 West Indonesia Time on Thursday, 13 February, Mt. Kelud, one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes erupted violently spewing 10km of smoke and volcanic materials up in the air. Located in East Java, a densely populated province, Mt. Kelud is surrounded by the cities of Blitar, Kediri, Malang. Malang and Batu are panoramic cool hill resorts popular with domestic and international tourists alike.
Since wind direction was predominantly due West, areas covered by rains of ash and gravel were first the towns of Blitar and Kediri, but within hours, winds poured ash over Yogyakarta and Solo in Central Java, which are over 200 km away from the mountain.
By 10 am today, Friday, 14 February, the airports of Surabaya and Malang in East Java, as well as Yogyakarta and Solo in Central Java were closed since runways were covered with over 3 cm of ash and gravel. The Borobudur temple near Magelang, has decided to also close the monument to visitors indefinitely, depending on the situation.
Meanwhile, Director General of Civil Aviation, Herry Bakti S. Gumay, told metrotv, that his Ministry has issued NOTAM (notice to airmen) that Indonesia has closed its airspace to all air traffic flying below 2000 feet above East and West Java. While international flights flying over 2,000 feet were safe.
Because of this force majeur, airlines flying to Yogya, Solo, Surabaya and Malang have all been cancelled. Passengers may return their tickets or ask for a change in flight.
By noon today, cities as far away as the southern part of West Java, in Cilacap and Pangandaran have reported sand pouring down.
As Mt. Kelud had been rumbling with earthquakes for weeks, authorities had closed off 5 km from the crater as danger zone and its status raised to
Alert (stage III). With last night’s eruption, the danger zone was immediately expanded to 15 km radius and Kelud’s status raised to “Awas” or stage II. The population was instantly evacuated without panic and delivered to prepared evacuation centers located over 30 km away from the mountain. So far no casualties have been reported.
President Yudhoyono has immediately convened a cabinet meeting to coordinate all emergency measures. Java is the most densely populated island in Indonesia, where half of Indonesia’s population lives. The reason for this is Java’s fertile soil, which is caused by none other than volcanic eruptions. (ws)
Photo Courtesy ANTARA FOTO/Regina Safri