November 3, 2007 / 10:39 AM / 11 years ago

Indonesia officials deny Mt Kelud erupted

SUGIHWARAS, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesia’s volcano center said Mount Kelud in East Java has not erupted, as earlier reported on Saturday.

Mist rises from the forest covering the Mount Kelud volcano near the village of Wilayang Ngantang in Indonesia's East Java province November 2, 2007. Mount Kelud volcano appears to have erupted, a top official said on Saturday, based on seismographic signals, but is obscured from view by heavy cloud cover. REUTERS/Sigit Pamungkas

“There was no eruption. If there had been an eruption, our equipment near the crater would have been damaged,” said Surono, head of the Center for Vulcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation.

Earlier on Saturday, center officials said their monitoring instruments near the crater had shown an eruption, but this was impossible to confirm visually because of heavy cloud cover.

Surono said incessant tremors and a dramatic rise in the temperature of the crater lake prompted volcanologists at Mount Kelud to flee their post fearing for their safety.

“Temperatures rose 2 degrees celsius in a day. This was an extremely sharp increase. On other volcanoes such phenomena would have resulted in heat clouds,” Surono said.

Umar Rosadi, a scientist monitoring the volcano, said he and 17 colleagues had returned to their post after tremors subsided.

“There has not been an eruption. All of our equipment works normally,” he told Reuters.

When Mount Kelud erupted in 1990 at least 30 people were killed. In 1919, about 5,000 died as Kelud ejected scalding water from its crater lake.

An estimated 350,000 people live within 10 km (6 miles) of the volcano which is about 90 km southwest of Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city and one of its busiest airports.

In Sugihwaras, a village 8 km from the crater that suffered casualties and was badly damaged in 1990, many people panicked when they heard the reports that Kelud had erupted.

“The mosque announced that Kelud had erupted and there was a half hour to evacuate,” said Ngatijo, a villager.

The authorities have been monitoring the volcano for several weeks and raised its alert status to the highest level about two weeks ago when its activity increased.

Indonesia has the highest number of active volcanoes of any country and sits on a belt of intense seismic activity known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire”.

Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia in Jakarta

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