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Indonesia Raises Volcano Alert After Tsunami That Killed Hundreds

Viriya Singgih and Rieka Rahadiana
Indonesia Raises Volcano Alert After Tsunami That Killed Hundreds

(Bloomberg) -- Indonesian authorities widened an area marked as a danger zone around the Mount Anak Krakatau as the volcano continued to send hot ash clouds into the sky after a weekend tsunami triggered by a landslide killed more than 400 people.

The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation barred people from a five-kilometer radius from the crater of the Mount Anak Krakatau on Thursday and issued a red alert for the aviation industry, citing ash clouds as high as 23,482 feet from the sea level. The state-run air navigation agency has ordered airlines to avoid the airspace above the volcano and use alternative routes.

The heightened alert follows the deadly tsunami in the Sunda Strait on Dec. 22 that killed at least 430 people and injured more than a thousand residents and holiday makers in the Lampung and Banten provinces. The killer wave was likely triggered by flank collapse -- where a section of the volcano gives way -- in the south and southwest sides of the Mount Anak Krakatau, according to Indonesian geologists, who have warned a repeat collapse could cause another tsunami.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy has been hit by earthquakes and tsunamis this year, posing challenge for President Joko Widodo as he bids for re-election in voting scheduled for April. The disasters have also hurt the all-important tourism industry and weighed on the nation’s currency, among the worst performers in Asia this year.

Masks, Goggles

Residents and visitors around the Mount Anak Krakatau have been advised to wear masks and goggles while venturing out, Antonius Ratdomopurbo, secretary of the Center for Volcanology, said in a statement.

“The potential danger from the activities of the Mount Anak Krakatau at present is throwing incandescent material, lava flows from the center of the eruption and hot clouds that point to the south,” Ratdomopurbo said. “The distribution of volcanic ash depends on wind direction and speed.”

Indonesia’s 17,000 islands are prone to earthquakes because the country straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire -- an arc of fault lines and volcanoes that causes frequent seismic upheavals. Two of the largest eruptions in the past 200 years occurred in Indonesia at Mount Tambora in 1815 and Krakatau in 1883. In the 1919 eruption of Mount Kelud, more than 5,000 people were killed.

In September more than 2,000 people were killed and about 80,000 people displaced in Central Sulawesi after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the island. That was preceded by a series of deadly earthquakes early this year that rattled the popular tourist destination of Lombok island, near Bali.

The meteorological agency has now deployed sensors in the Sunda Strait to help warn residents after authorities failed to pick up the signs of the weekend tsunami and evacuate people. Almost 22,000 people were displaced, including in Tanjung Lesung, a surfing haven in the western-most part of the Java island that’s been branded a new Bali by the government.

(Updates with aviation alert in second paragraph.)

--With assistance from Eko Listiyorini.

To contact the reporters on this story: Viriya Singgih in Jakarta at vsinggih@bloomberg.net;Rieka Rahadiana in Jakarta at rrahadiana@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Thomas Kutty Abraham at tabraham4@bloomberg.net, Ruth Pollard

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