A volcano on the island of Sulawesi erupted on Wednesday, just days after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the island, killing over 1,400.
After months of increased activity, Mount Soputan erupted just before 9am local time, sending an ash cloud estimated to be almost 4,000 metres high into the sky.
Just hours before the eruption, a statement from MAGMA Indonesia (Multiplatform Application for Geohazard Mitigation and Assessment) detailed how both thermal and seismic activity at the volcano had increased in recent weeks.
Seismic activity reportedly increased from two events per day in September to over 100 recorded quakes on Tuesday. The statement warned an eruption could be imminent.
The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources immediately issued a warning for planes, raising the aviation colour code to orange, stating: “Eruption and ash emission is continuing.”
This the third natural disaster to strike Sulawesi in under a week.
On Friday, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake, followed by a tsunami, brought devastation to the city of Palu and surrounding areas.
At the time of writing, the official death count is over 1,400 but this is expected to rise as rescue teams work to sift through the rubble.
According to Science Alert, authorities are warning people to stay outside of a 4 kilometre exclusion zone around Mount Soputan. Those in the region to the immediate southwest of the summit are instructed to remain 6.5 km away due to risks associated with the ash cloud and potential lava flows.
Those in the area are advised to wear protective breathing gear, such as face masks, to cover their mouth and nose.
At this early stage, it is still unclear as to whether the eruption is linked to the earlier earthquakes.
Writing for Forbes, volcanology expert Robin George Andrews said: “The ability of earthquakes to trigger volcanic eruptions is still heavily debated, and at present, there’s not enough convincing evidence to link the two.”
Photo: © Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Countermeasure / Twitter