‘Island’ Emerges in Java Volcano Crater

BLITAR, East Java ~ A massive island that has risen from the crater lake of a steaming volcano in East Java consists of new lava that has gradually erupted from its core, a volcanologist said this week.

The peak of Mt. Kelut, whose fertile slopes are populated by thousands of people, was put on high alert on October 16 but has not fully erupted, puzzling scientists who say it is impossible to predict what may happen next.

“The island was visually captured by our CCTV (closed-circuit television) on Sunday, with smoke now pluming up to one kilometer from it,” volcanologist Saut Simatupang said on Tuesday.

He estimated that the 100-metre-long island loomed 20 meters above the surface of the crater lake. The temperature of the lake had soared so high it had broken measuring instruments, he said.

“We still cannot determine whether (the island) is new product or old lava from a 1990 eruption that had solidified at the bottom of the crater lake,” more or less acting as a cork, he said.

It appeared to have been pushed up on Saturday night, when volcanologists mistakenly thought an eruption was occurring so abandoned their posts.

Overnight, continuous tremors had continued shuddering underneath Kelut, with dozens of puffs of steam or smoke shooting into the air, Simatupang said.

“We are not taking a chance yet to get closer to study the volcano, although we think it is mostly steam coming out,” said Simatupang.

“This could go on or it could be that the volcano is keeping its energy for a bigger eruption.”

Scientists said on Monday that energy surging inside the volcano was three to four times as strong as that which caused the last eruption, in 1990, which killed 34 people.

Authorities have been trying to evacuate people living in a 10-kilometre danger zone around the peak but many people have refused to leave or return to their homes during daylight hours.

Since records began, Mount Kelut has claimed more than 15,000 lives, including an estimated 10,000 in a major 1586 eruption. A 1919 eruption spewed heat clouds that killed 5,160 people.

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