Mt. Sinabung on Highest Alert as Volcano Erupts 9 Times Overnight

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A man drives his motorcycles as Mount Sinabung spews smoke and ashes in Tiga Serangkai village in Karo, North Sumatra on Nov. 24, 2013. The alert level of the volcanic activities was raised to the highest, “Awas”, on Sunday after a series of eruptions since Saturday evening. More than 6,000 people have been evacuated and the evacuation of thousands of others are underway. (EPA Photo/Dedi Sahputra)

Indonesia raised the alert status for Mount Sinabung in the North Sumatra district of Karo to the most dangerous level — awas — as thousands of residents in 23 villages surrounding the volcano continued to be evacuated on Sunday.

“Based on the results of analysis of visual, quake, deformation and gas observations, the activity status of Mount Sinabung, starting at 10:00 a.m. on Nov. 24, 2013, is raised from ‘Siaga’ (Alert Level III) to ‘Awas’ (Level IV),” the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation (PVMBG) announced on Sunday.

Indonesia has introduced four alert levels for volcanic activity in the country: Normal, Waspada, Siaga and Awas, with the latter — literally translated as “beware” — representing the most urgent situation.

The PVMBG has recorded Sinabung’s increasing volatility since Nov. 1 — raising the volcano’s alert level from Waspada to Siaga on Nov. 3.

From Saturday evening through Sunday morning, the volcano became significantly more unstable, with at least nine eruptions in the short period prompting the raise to the highest alert level.

“At 7:27 a.m. [on Sunday], the volcano emitted ash as high as 8,000 meters… at 8:55 a.m., the ash eruption was 3,000 meters tall,” the center said on its website.

PVMBG urges the evacuation of thousands of residents of 19 villages within a radius of five kilometers from the Sinabung crater, as well as four other villages outside the range situated in the southeast of the crater, citing the direction of the eruption.

“And because we’ve entered the rainy season, people living on the banks of rivers downstream from the summit of Mount Sinabung are reminded to stay alert for the threat of lava,” the center added.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), meanwhile, said in its latest update on Sinabung emergency measures that at least 6,300 people had been evacuated from villages around the 2,640-meter-high volcano, and that evacuation remained a work in progress for thousands of others.

“The Mt. Sinabung Indonesian Military [TNI] and other state apparatus are dispatching a fleet of trucks to evacuate villagers,” the BNPB said on its website on Sunday morning.