Mount Merapi, Indonesia A volcanic eruption and a tsunami killed scores of people hundreds of miles apart in Indonesia — spasms from the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” which spawns disasters from deep within the Earth.
Tuesday’s eruption of Mount Merapi killed at least 18 people, forced thousands to flee down its slopes and spewed burning ash and smoke high into the air on the island of Java.
Meanwhile, off the coast of Sumatra, about 800 miles west of the volcano, rescuers battled rough seas to reach Indonesia’s Mentawai islands, where a 10-foot tsunami triggered by an earthquake Monday night swept away hundreds of homes, killing at least 113 villagers, said Mujiharto of the Health Ministry’s crisis center. Up to 500 others are missing.
The twin disasters happened hours apart in one of the most seismically active regions on the planet.
Scientists have warned that pressure building beneath Merapi’s lava dome could trigger its most powerful explosion in years.
But Gede Swantika, a government volcanologist, expressed hope the 9,737-foot mountain, which sent rocks and debris cascading down its southern slope, could be releasing steam slowly.
“It’s too early to know for sure,” he said, adding that a big blast could still be coming. “But if it continues like this for a while, we are looking at a slow, long eruption.”
A 2006 eruption at Merapi killed two people, one in 1994 killed 60 people, and a 1930 blast killed 1,300.
After refusing to budge from the volcano’s fertile slopes, saying they wanted to tend to their crops and protect their homes, villagers started streaming by the thousands into makeshift emergency shelters late Tuesday. Many carried sleeping mats, bags of clothes and food as they settled in.