Mount Merapi

May Editorial      


Mount Merapi

      Indonesia contains more active volcanoes than any other country on Earth. Of the 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, Mount Merapi on the Island of Java is the most active. In fact, so active that annual offerings are made by the Javanese people to this volcano to placate its restless spirit. This conical stratovolcano's name, Merapi, is very appropriate as it means "Mountain of Fire". Typically Mount Merapi becomes active every two to three years, but large eruptions occur only every 10-15 years. In the past 500 years 68 large eruptions have been recorded. The most notable of these eruptions were in 1006, 1786, 1822 and 1872 when many people died. The lava flows, once basaltic, have in historical times become andesitic.

The present danger is increased because Mount Merapi is close to the city of Yogyakarta, a city of 0.5 milion people, and also thousands of people live almost on top ofthe volcano in villages as high up as 1700 m. A large eruption can therefore have devastating effects. In 1930 the eruption destroyed 13 villages and killed 1400 people in pyroclastic flows. The most recent fatalities were reported in 1994 when a violent blast killed 43 people. Lahars are another hazard by which Merapi threatens those living on the volcano's slopes. A lahar is made from pyroclastic material which stops flowing until it is soaked by rainfall. Then it becomes a huge flow of material moving at speeds of hundreds of meters every minute. Once settled, the material from a lahar sets almost like concrete.

      Mount Merapi started smouldering about a month ago. Last weekend the government raised the threat status to the highest level. Many people have been evacuated, but some of them are now abandoning the shelters and returning to their homes. In the last couple of days the volcano has started to throw hot clouds of gas and ash as high as 500,000 feet forcing the officials to ban flights over the mountain.

      For up-to-date information about Mount Merapi activity log in to MSN news . There is also a video clip from the proximity of the volcano. For more general information about volcanoes see volcano section on this site.


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