Thousands Evacuated as Indonesian Volcano Erupts

TAGULANDANG ISLAND, Indonesia — In a dramatic turn of events, the remote Indonesian volcano, Mount Ruang, erupted three times on Tuesday, spewing lava and ash more than 5 kilometers (approximately 3 miles) into the sky. The eruption has forced authorities to issue evacuation orders for over 12,000 people living in the vicinity, as fears of a potential tsunami loom large.

The Eruption and Its Impact

Mount Ruang, located in the North Sulawesi province, has disrupted air travel and posed a significant threat to the safety of residents. Here are the key details:

  1. Airport Closures: More than half a dozen airports have been forced to close due to the spread of volcanic ash. Among them are the provincial capital’s airport in Manado and the city of Gorontalo. The ash cloud has even reached as far as eastern Malaysia on Borneo island, which shares its borders with Indonesia and Brunei1.
  2. Tsunami Warning: The situation escalated when authorities warned that parts of the volcano could collapse into the sea, potentially triggering a tsunami. As a precautionary measure, rescue ships were dispatched to evacuate thousands of residents from neighboring Tagulandang island to Siau island. The urgency was palpable as the islanders awaited evacuation at Tagulandang’s port.
  3. Eyewitness Accounts: Rosalin Salindeho, a 95-year-old resident of Tagulandang, described the eruption vividly: “The mountain exploded. Wow, it was horrible. There were rains of rocks. Twice. The second one was really heavy, even the houses far away were also hit”.
Historical Context

Mount Ruang’s eruption brings to mind the devastating collapse of Mount Anak Krakatoa in 2018. The partial collapse of Anak Krakatoa, situated between Java and Sumatra islands, triggered a tsunami that claimed over 400 lives and left thousands injured. The memory of that catastrophe still haunts the region, underscoring the urgency of the current evacuation efforts.

Unity and Preparedness

As we witness this natural spectacle, it serves as a stark reminder that disasters transcend borders, languages, and occupations. The International Workers’ Day, which unites people worldwide, takes on a new meaning for the residents of Tagulandang and Siau islands. Their resilience and unity in the face of adversity will be crucial in navigating this crisis.  (zai)