Volcano erupts on quake-hit Indonesian island


A volcano has erupted on the Indonesian island hit by an earthquake and tsunami five days ago.

Mount Soputan in North Sulawesi province starting spewing ash 6,000m (19,685ft) into the sky on Wednesday afternoon.

A government volcanologist said he suspects the eruption was triggered by last Friday’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake, which also created a tsunami and has killed 1,407 people – with the number rising daily.

Planes have been warned about ash clouds, as they can be hazardous for their engines.

Air evacuations only recently began in Central Sulawesi – about 585 miles (940km) southwest of the volcano – and aid planes have also just started to be able to get to Palu, the city most badly hit by the tsunami.

Mount Soputan volcanic eruption in North Sulawesi, Minahasa, Indonesia
Image: Mount Soputan erupts in North Sulawesi, Minahasa, Indonesia

The volcano’s eruption status was raised from an alert to standby 2.5 miles (4km) from the summit and up to four miles (6.5km) to the west-southwest.

Standby status means people should avoid the area nearest the volcano and have masks available in case of ash fall.

The Indonesian archipelago has dozens of active volcanoes as it is on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Video: Aerial footage shows quake damage

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo arrived in Palu just hours before Mount Soputan erupted.

It is the first time he has visited the area since the quake hit five days previously, with the government heavily criticised for a lack of disaster planning as residents in and around Palu have struggled to get food, water or medical aid for days.

Many villages have been cut off by landslides caused by the earthquake, with the number of deaths expected to rise even further over the coming days.

A woman walks through a devastated area in Palu, in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi
Image: A woman walks through a devastated area in Palu, in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi

Mr Widodo said: “Logistics are in and continue to spread, there are places that we haven’t reached.

“I’ve instructed the governor to recommend the markets to be reopened, we want to start reviving the economy.”

As aid began trickling in, residents in one neighbourhood clapped, cheered and high-fived the arrival of a supply truck.

One of them, clutching a box of instant noodles, said: “I really haven’t eaten for three days.”

But aid is yet to reach the hardest-hit areas outside Palu as the UN humanitarian office said people urgently require shelter, clean water, food, fuel and emergency medical care.

Yahdi Basma, a leader from a village south of Palu, said he is hoping to get his family on a cargo plane out because there is no aid.

“The president is not hearing about the remote areas, only about the tsunami and about Palu,” he said.

“There are hundreds of people still buried under the mud in my village. I lost many members of my family and neighbours. There is no aid whatsoever which is why we’re leaving.”

Three-day-old baby Gambita was born after the quake-Tsunami struck
Image: Three-day-old baby Gambita was born after the quake-Tsunami struck

Entire neighbourhoods have been swallowed up by the process of liquefaction, which happens when the earthquake shakes the soil – making it behave like a liquid.

Hundreds of people are believed to have perished due to liquefaction, the Indonesia disaster agency said.

Indonesia’s military chief said soldiers and other forces have been deployed to Palu to guard any remaining key infrastructure, fuel depots and the airport – which was badly damaged – to stop any looting attempts.

Police in the city had not been arresting looters desperate for food and water until Tuesday when other items such as computers were stolen.

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All ground aid convoys have a police guard to ensure essentials, including medical supplies, can get to areas without desperate survivors stopping them for food and water.

:: Tsunami: The Aftermath, a special programme live from Indonesia, will be broadcast on Sky News at 8pm.

From – SkyNews