Indonesia volcano eruption prompts airport closures, spreads ash to Malaysia

The eruptions, which occurred on Tuesday, sent lava and ash shooting more than 5 kilometers into the sky, prompting authorities to issue evacuation orders for approximately 12,000 local residents.

A series of eruptions at Mount Ruang, a remote volcano in Indonesia, has led to the closure of more than half a dozen airports and the spread of volcanic ash as far as Malaysia, officials reported on Wednesday.

The eruptions, which occurred on Tuesday, sent lava and ash shooting more than 5 kilometers into the sky, prompting authorities to issue evacuation orders for approximately 12,000 local residents.

In response to fears of a potential tsunami caused by parts of the volcano collapsing into the sea, rescue ships were dispatched to evacuate thousands of people from neighboring Tagulandang island to Siau island.

Rosalin Salindeho, a 95-year-old resident of Tagulandang, spoke of her terrifying experience during the eruption. “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,” she said.

The Indonesian meteorological agency (BMKG) reported on Wednesday that volcanic ash from Mount Ruang had reached as far as eastern Malaysia on Borneo island, prompting the closure of seven airports, including the major hubs in Manado and Gorontalo.

Julius Ramopolii, head of the Mount Ruang monitoring post, stated that the volcano was still emitting ash and smoke above the crater on Wednesday morning. He mentioned that the volcano can be visibly seen, the plume of smoke, grey and thick stands visible, and reached 500m to 700m above the crater, he said in a statement.

Despite ongoing eruptions, the alert level for Mount Ruang remains at its highest level on a four-tiered system, and locals are urged to remain outside of a 7km exclusion zone.

One of our experts on the subject warned of potential long-term impacts by stating that given the intensity and scale of the recent eruptions at Mount Ruang, we could expect continued seismic activity in the region. The spread of volcanic ash is likely to disrupt air travel for an extended period, impacting not only Indonesia but also neighboring countries,.

The fear of a potential tsunami is rooted in recent history. In 2018, the crater of Mount Anak Krakatoa, located between Java and Sumatra islands, partially collapsed during a major eruption, causing a tsunami that killed more than 400 people and injured thousands.