Authorities, residents anticipating eruption of Central Java volcano

Authorities, residents anticipating eruption of Central Java volcano
Hot lava explodes from the crater of Mount Slamet volcano seen from Brebes town in Indonesia's Central Java province on September 3, 2014.

A recent escalation in volcanic activity has forced local officials and hundreds of thousands of residents living near Mt. Slamet in Central Java to prepare for the possibility of a major eruption.

If the volcano's alert level, which has sat at level 3 since Aug. 12, is raised to the highest-level 4, all residents living within a radius of 4 to 10 km from Mt. Slamet's summit would be forced to evacuate.

"Hundreds of thousands of residents in Purbalingga, Banyumas, Tegal, Brebes and Pemalang [regencies] have to be ready considering the intensifying activity of Mt. Slamet over the past three days," acting head of the Central Java's Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Sarwa Pramana, said on Saturday, referring to the 174, 644 residents living in the 34 villages spread among 11 districts in the five regencies.

Sarwa asked residents to remain calm and await further instruction from officials. He said his office had prepared 50 trucks should they be needed to evacuate residents from the slopes of the volcano to shelters.

At the shelters, he said that logistics such as food, water and clothing had been readied.

Meanwhile, officials at the regency level have also busied themselves preparing for the potential eruption.

On Friday, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and local police held a coordinating ceremony at Rempoah village in Baturaden district, Banyumas.

"We are still waiting for instructions from the PVMBG [Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center] but [we are ready for] the worst case possibility. All related parties, including the TNI and the police are on standby," head of Banyumas BPBD Didi Rudwiyanto told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

He said there were three districts in Banyumas that were included in the danger zone: Kedungbanteng, Baturaden and Sumbang.

The Banyumas administration has already distributed 50,000 dust masks to residents in the three districts, prepared an evacuation route and set up a number of shelters.

On Friday, the PVMBG recorded 12 rumbles and seven loud bangs. On Saturday morning, the Semarang Search and Rescue (SAR) team monitoring Mt. Slamet from Gambuhan village in Pulosari, Pemalang, reported declining activity.

"Based on our observation in Gambuhan from the dawn through the morning, there has been no explosion. We saw several splashes of lava, but they were relatively small-scale," head of Semarang SAR team Agus Haryono said.

Some residents said they were concerned about the tremors and the lava, but as of Saturday, none had begun to evacuate.

"We feel some rumbles, hear loud bangs and see overflowing lava at night, but we have not felt the urgency to evacuate. However, we will obey the officials' orders," Purwanto, a resident, said.

Separately, in Jambi province, the Kerinci regency administration has banned climbers from climbing to the crater of Mt. Kerinci, as the volcano is at alert-level 2.

In Tomohon city, North Sulawesi, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Mt. Lokon erupted three times on Saturday, followed by the release of volcanic ash that reached surrounding areas. There has been no report of damage.

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