As of today (February 5, 2014), the death toll from a February 1 eruption at Mount Sinabung in Indonesia has risen to 16. Authorities recovered another body from the disaster scene, and a person with life-threatening injuries died in a hospital. The large eruption occurred following four months of heightened activity at the 2,460-meter-high (8,069-feet-high) stratovolcano.
A thin layer of ash was expected to arrive in the southwestern portion of the Malay Peninsula this morning. Areas where ash may have fallen today include coastal regions of Negri Sembilan, Malacca as well as Muar, Batu Pahat, Pontian and Kulaijaya in Johor, according to Muhammad Helmi Abdullah, director of region’s National Weather Forecast Center. The ash has the potential to reduce visibility in the region, and, while air travel in Malaysia is not currently being disrupted, the situation is being monitored closely.
The Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana) is in the process of mobilizing medical and social services to help refugees affected by the eruption. More than 30,000 people have been displaced since the eruptions at Mount Sinabung started in September 2013.
Concern is now growing over the loss of income from crop failures. Many of the refugees are subsistence farmers who make their living growing coffee, cocoa and fruit, according to a report posted on ReliefWeb.
The volcano is located on the island of Sumatra along the tectonically active Pacific Ring of Fire.
Sadly, the February 1 eruption happened just as many villagers were returning home following an evacuation order that was partially lifted, following a decrease in activity from Mount Sinabung.
During the eruption, the volcano spewed hot rocks and ash that reached an estimated height of 2,000 meters (1.2 miles). Nearby areas were covered with a thick blanket of ash, which subsequently made rescue efforts difficult.
Bottom line: As of February 5, 2014, 16 people have died from the large eruption on February 1 at Mount Sinabung in Indonesia. Thousands have been displaced from their homes, and disaster agencies are in the process of mobilizing medical and social services to help refugees affected by the volcanic eruption. A thin layer of ash was expected to arrive in the southwestern portion of the Malay Peninsula this morning (February 5), and, while air travel in Malaysia is not currently being disrupted, the situation is being monitored closely.
Update: This article was updated on February 7, 2014 with a new estimated height for the ash cloud of 2000 meters (1.2 miles).
Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.