Sulawesi hit by volcanic eruption just days after quake and tsunami

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Sulawesi
Screenshot from amateur footage of the eruption posted to YouTube (watch below).

A volcano has erupted on Sulawesi, just days after the Indonesian island was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. 

Mount Soputan on Sulawesi island today (Wednesday, October 3) spewed a massive column of ash more than nearly 20,000 feet into the sky. 

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No evacuations have yet been ordered and there have been no reports of any deaths or injuries.

A government volcanologist has said it’s possible the eruption was accelerated by the magnitude 7.5 quake that struck the island on Friday.

“It could be that this earthquake triggered the eruption, but we have seen an increase in volcanic activity since July and this began surging on Monday. Yet we can’t say there a direct link, as the mountain is quite far away,” Kasbani, the head of Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Agency, said on local television.

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Nazli Ismail, a geophysicist at the University of Syiah Kuala on Sumatra island said there was no concrete evidence to show the two incidents are linked.

“People talk about the butterfly effect. The concept is that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a catastrophe,” he said. “So it is possible for the earthquake to trigger the volcano eruption, but it’s not conclusive. This needs to be further investigated.”

Danny Hillman Natawidjaja, a geologist with Indonesia’s Institute of Science, echoed the views, saying there was not enough data to make a link.

“In principle, the seismic waves from the earthquake could increase pressure in the volcano’s magma chamber and could cause an eruption. We don’t know for sure,” he said.

Soputan’s eruption status was raised from an alert to ‘standby’ four kilometres from the summit and up to 6.5 kilometres to the west-southwest. Standby status means the public should avoid the area nearest the volcano and have masks available in the event of ash fall.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho dismissed concerns that the eruption could affect planes transporting aid and supplies for quake victims.

The earthquake set off a tsunami that devastated coastal communities. As of today, the official death toll has risen to 1,407. This is expected to increase further. Thousands of others have been injured and more than 70,000 have been displaced.

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