Asia Minute: Asia's Restive Volcanoes

Jun 16, 2015

Mount Sinabung
Credit Wikipedia Commons

Hawai‘i Island’s Kīlauea Volcano remains one of the most active in the world—its most recent eruption has been going on since 1983. Right now, the lava movements are not disrupting the lives of people. On the other side of the Pacific, it’s a much different story. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Thousands of people on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have been forced from their homes by an eruption on Mount Sinabung. A military official on the island told reporters more than 1,200 people were moved on Monday alone, and 2,500 more may be evacuated in coming days. So far this month, about 4,000 have been re-located.

For more than 400 years, Mount Sinabung had been a dormant volcano. Five years ago it became active again—and its intensity has increased markedly in recent days. Scientists are tracking what they call “pyroclastic flows”---streams of gas and hot ash that burn a flaming track down a mountainside.

The U.S. Geological Survey says “a pyroclastic flow will destroy nearly everything in its path.” Last year, at least 14 people were killed by such flows from Mount Sinabung.The U.S.G.S. Volcano Hazards Program and the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program jointly track volcanic hotspots around the world. Their current list includes two dozen “ongoing and new activities.” About half are in Asia—from several in Indonesia and far eastern Russia to Japan and the Andaman Islands of India.