Indonesia to relocate 10,000 people after Ruang volcano eruptions left residents ‘running for their lives’

Indonesia to relocate 10,000 people after Ruang volcano eruptions left residents ‘running for their lives’
  • PublishedMay 4, 2024

Indonesia will permanently relocate almost 10,000 residents after a series of explosive eruptions of the Ruang volcano raised concerns about the dangers of residing on the island in future, according to a government minister.

About 9,800 people live on Ruang island, in the province of North Sulawesi, but in recent weeks all residents have been forced to evacuate after the mountain has continued to spew incandescent lava and columns of ash kilometres into the sky.

Authorities this week raised the alert status of the volcano to the highest level, closed the provincial airport in Manado, and also warned of a possible tsunami if parts of the mountain collapse into the surrounding waters.

Hundreds of “simple but permanent” homes would be built in the Bolaang Mongondow area to facilitate the relocations, said coordinating human development minister Muhadjir Effendy, after a cabinet meeting to discuss the volcano on Friday.

Grey ash spews into the sky above a mountain. A boat sits in the ocean in the foreground.
Tuesday’s eruption from Mount Ruang volcano as seen from Tagulandang island in North Sulawesi.(AFP)

“As instructed by President Joko Widodo, we will build houses that meet disaster-standards,” he said, adding that the site was located about 200 kilometres from Ruang island.

Mount Ruang began to dramatically erupt last month, with experts saying the eruptions were triggered by increased seismic activity, including deep sea earthquakes.

The mountain erupted again on Tuesday, causing damage to some homes and forcing residents to evacuate from the Tagulandang island, where they had initially sought refuge, to the provincial capital of Manado.

Roads and buildings on Tagulandang were blanketed in a thick layer of volcanic ash, and the roofs of some homes had collapsed, according to witnesses.

A badly damaged house with stripped back roof sits in front of misty mountain
Indonesian authorities have decided that it is too risky for local residents to return to Ruang Island.(Reuters: Chermanto Tjaombah)

Antelmus Paulus, 67, was in despair after the eruption rendered his home uninhabitable.

Antelmus’ zinc-roofed house, about 7 kilometres from the 725-metre high volcano, was heavily damaged by the ejected material.

“There were rocks that were spewed [from the volcano], it lasted at least three hours,” he said.

“I have no place to live now.”Another island resident, Sulce Ansar, said Tuesday’s eruption was “worse” than the series of eruptions last month that forced hundreds to evacuate.

“I remember seeing the fiery red clouds of lava [spewing] into the air, along with gravels, volcanic ash raining down the island. I had to run very far that night,” she said.

The volcano had not erupted on Friday but Manado’s Sam Ratulangi Airport remained closed until the evening due to the spread of volcanic ash.

Indonesia straddles the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” an area of high seismic activity where multiple tectonic plates meet.

A state of emergency, effective until May 14, has been declared by local government to facilitate aid access.

The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) had warned of a potential tsunami triggered by volcanic material collapsing into the ocean.


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