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Sinabung volcano (Sumatra, Indonesia): larger-than-average pyroclastic flow claims at least 3 victims

Sun, 22 May 2016, 16:49
16:49 PM | BY: T
The deadly pyroclastic flow at Sinabung yesterday (image: PVMBG)
The deadly pyroclastic flow at Sinabung yesterday (image: PVMBG)
A series of pyroclastic flows occurred yesterday afternoon - sadly, at least one of them was was much larger than most others during the past months and claimed several fatalities among local farmers who were working on their fields within the exclusion zone, approx. 4 km from the volcano. The latest update includes 7 dead and at least 2 badly bunt among the victims.

The pyroclastic flows - turbulent avalanches of hot debris and ash, caused by partial collapses of the slowly growing lava dome and its over-spilling lava lobes on the upper steep flanks - occurred in a series at 14:28, 15:08 and 16:39 local time.
The first of them appears to have been the largest in the series (although clouds obscured views after the first one). The flow reached 4500 m distance (significantly more than any other recent one, compared to averages of 2000-3500 m of similar flows during the past months). Presumably it also was the one that killed the villagers and burnt at least 4 others. All of the victims were caught by surprise (and had no chance of outrunning the flow) while working on their fields within the (unfortunately no longer much enforced) exclusion zone near the former (now officially evacuated) village of Kabanjahean.

This sad incident shows once more that dome-building eruptions, even when the volcano is in a comparably low phase of activity (as Sinabung has been during the past year or more), they remain extremely dangerous. Erupted viscous (sticky) lava accumulated on the top of the volcano retains much of its gasses for a long time, and once larger pieces of it break off, simply by gravitational instability, the gasses trapped inside the rock fragment it, which increases the fluidization of the avalanche, enabling it to reach great speed and distances of many kilometers.

Previous news

Wed, 18 May 2016, 06:00
Based on satellite images and information from PVMBG, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 18, 21-22, and 24 May ash plumes from Sinabung rose to altitudes of 3.6-5.5 km (12,000-18,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted S and E. BNPB reported that pyroclastic flow descended the flanks at 1648 on 21 May, killing six people and critically injuring three more. ... Read all
Mon, 16 May 2016, 15:39
Eruption of Sinabung this morning (image: PVMBG / facebook)
Two small to moderately sized pyroclastic flows occurred this morning at the volcano. Read all
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