Thousands More Flee From Mount Sinabung’s Continued Eruption

Farmers face millions of dollars in crop loss

By Kendra Pierre-Louis on November 17, 2013 11:38 AM EST

Reuters
Reuters

Earlier this month the Mount Sinabung volcano located on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra experienced a third significant eruption in three months spurring mass evacuations.

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This week the eruptions have intensified. On Thursday alone there were at least two separate significant eruptions. The volcano remained dormant for more than 400 years before springing to life in August 2012. Last year, it erupted three more times before resting until September of this year. The initial explosion spewed a 7 kilometer (4.3 mile) column of ash into the air leading to the evacuation of 1,300 people. The continued eruptions have been no smaller, prompting authorities to expand the evacuation zone from a 3 kilometer (1.24 miles) to a 5 kilometer (3.1) radius. Since the breathtaking November 3rd eruption, there have been more than 40 minor eruptions.

Reuters
Reuters

As a result of this near-constant round of activity, there has been another round of evacuations and serious harm to the region's farming industry. According to Indonesian's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson, up to 5,535 residents from eight different villages have been evacuated.

Data from the Tanah Karo Agriculture office indicates that roughly 25,739 hectares of farmland, including chili peppers, cabbage, and 50 percent of the regions potato crop, have been damaged by the eruptions. Total crop losses are not yet estimated, but the cost to the chili pepper industry is expected to top more than $1.82 million U.S. dollars, taxing the limits of already beleaguered farmers. Many of the region's farmers finance their growing seasons with bank loans. With no crops to sell for income, their ability to pay back those bank loans is being called into question.

Reuters
Reuters

Indonesia lays within the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area where tectonic structures make it particularly prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. So far, the Mount Sinabung eruptions have caused no deaths, unlike in the Nov. 30, 2010 eruption of Indonesia's Mount Merapi. In that instance more than 350 people were killed. 

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