STUNNING photos have emerged of the aftermath of the explosive eruption of Indonesia’s mighty Mount Sinabung that sent hot ash billowing 5km in the air and left nearby villages covered in ash.
The volcano literally blew its top on Monday, with Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation saying a massive chunk from the peak had been “completely annihilated”.
“This was the biggest eruption for Sinabung this year,” agency chief Pak Kasbani said.
Ash from the volcano, in North Sumatra, reached Lhokseumawe, a city more than 260km away.
Pictures from the aftermath of the explosion show homes, buildings, roads and crop fields in villages in North Sumatra covered in a thick blanket of dense ash.
Officials rushed to distribute face masks and urged residents to stay indoors.
“In some villages the visibility was barely 5m after the eruption — it was pitch black,”
local disaster mitigation agency official Nata Nail Perangin-angin said.
Before-and-after images released by the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation show a huge chunk missing from the volcano’s summit.
Volcanologist Devy Kamil Syahbana said the chunk, known as the “lava dome,” had a volume of at least 1.6 million cubic meters.
No-one was injured as a result of the eruption but video has captured children screaming as they fled a school close to the exclusion zone as a cloud of ash rose from the volcano.
Mount Sinabung has been rumbling since 2010, and a 7km danger zone has been in place for a number of years.
The volcano was dormant for four centuries before it woke up and exploded back to life in 2010, when it killed two people. It erupted again in 2014, killing 16 people, and another time in 2016, killing seven.
Indonesia is home to the highest number of active volcanoes in the world, thanks to its position along the Pacific “ring of fire” — a belt of colliding tectonic planes.
Another of Indonesia’s active volcanoes, Mount Agung in Bali, began erupting late last year. The activity at Agung forced about 140,000 to flee their homes and caused air traffic chaos that stranded thousands of Australian holiday-makers.
Bali saw another eruption of Agung earlier in February, which sent a 1.5km ash column above the volcano.