Science Snap (#18): Tragic Sinabung Eruption

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

Last Saturday (1st February 2014) an eruption at Sinabung volcano in Indonesia claimed the lives of 14 people. That death toll has since risen to 16, and could rise further as people battle in hospital with severe burns and other wounds.

A local villager runs from the eruption of Sinabung volcano in Indonesia. Image credit: BBC News.
A local villager runs from the eruption of Sinabung volcano in Indonesia. Image credit: BBC News.

The volcano has been erupting since September 2013 and over 30,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. The Friday before the latest eruption, anxious citizens were allowed back to check on their homes. Many had been sneaking back into the exclusion zone anyway. And herein lies the danger. Despite the obvious inconvenience of being away from home for such a period of time, exclusion zones and evacuations are there for protection and safety. This tragic event is the result of people becoming too complacent around a volcano with a prolonged eruption, and locals not fully understanding the risks associated with such situations.

Hopefully this will serve as a timely reminder, to both locals and scientists. The perennial need for better communication between scientists, locals and civil protection authorities isn’t going away.

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About James Hickey

I'm a geophysical volcanologist trying to better understand volcanic unrest.

2 comments on “Science Snap (#18): Tragic Sinabung Eruption

  1. I think ‘obvious inconvenience of being away from home’ might be a bit of an understatement! The motivation for people to return to their homes is often extremely strong, particularly for subsistence farmers, to ensure the safe-keeping of things that cannot be safely transported from the evacuation zone, e.g., money (not everybody in the world has a bank account!) and livestock.

    Reply inspired by reading http://blogs.egu.eu/gfgd/2014/02/03/eruption-of-mount-sinabung/ !

  2. I agree with Charly. Furthermore, it’s a bold statement to directly attribute the deaths to complacency and not completely understanding the risks. As yet, there haven’t been any reported critiques of poor communication between the three parties. The deaths came within the 3 mile exclusion zone and, following Charly’s point, we are unsure of their personal circumstances. They may have been well aware of the risks…

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