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Report on Merapi (Indonesia) — May 2006


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 31, no. 5 (May 2006)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Merapi (Indonesia) Mid-2006 brings multiple pyroclastic flows that kill two, and travel up to 7 km

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2006. Report on Merapi (Indonesia) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 31:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200605-263250



7.54°S, 110.446°E; summit elev. 2910 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Seismic activity at Merapi began to increase on 19 March 2006, leading the Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM) to raise the Alert Level from 1 to 2 (on a scale of 1-4). Ten thousand residents were warned to prepare for possible evacuation.

On 10 April, authorities banned mountain climbing due to reports of increased tremor. Unverified preliminary reports indicated "lava" reportedly flowing near Pasar Bubar village, ~ 350 m from the volcano's crater. At 1500 on 12 April, CVGHM raised the Alert Level from 2 to 3. No one was permitted within 8 km of the summit.

During 21-25 April, seismicity remained elevated; several seismic signals associated with rockfalls were recorded. The SO2 flux measured from Merapi was 175 metric tons on 22 April. On 22 and 23 April, fumarolic emissions rose 400 m above the summit. On 25 April, two rockslides from lava-flow fronts were heard from nearby observatories. According to news reports, about 600 of the approximately 14,000 people living near the volcano had been evacuated by 24 April.

According to news reports, on 27 April nearly 2,000 villagers were evacuated from Sidorejo and Tegalmulyo villages. That day, small amounts of ash fell in Gemer village about 5 km from the summit.

On 28 April, CVGHM reported volcanic material traveling ~ 1.5 km SW to the Lamat River. Seismicity that day was dominated by multi-phase earthquakes; but signals from landslides, rockfalls, and low-frequency events were also recorded.

On 6 May, gas plumes rose to 800 m above the summit and eighteen incandescent avalanches of volcanic material were observed. On 7 May, 26 incandescent avalanches that extended ~ 100 m were seen during the morning. On 6 and 7 May, the lava dome continued to grow and seismicity was dominated by multi-phase earthquakes. Shallow volcanic earthquakes and signals from landslides and rockfalls were also recorded. On 8 May, the Darwin VAAC reported that CVGHM warned of a plume rising to ~ 3.7 km, but no ash was visible on satellite imagery.

According to the Darwin VAAC, gas plumes that rose ~ 600 m above the summit were visible on satellite imagery on 11 May. Avalanches of incandescent material extended 200 m SE towards the Gendol River, and 1.5 km SW towards the Krasak River. Several small incandescent avalanches of volcanic material were visible from observatory posts. The new lava dome at the volcano's summit had grown to fill the gap between the 1997 and 2001 lava flows on the W side of the summit, and had reached a height about the same as the 1997 lava flows. Seismicity was dominated by multi-phase earthquakes and signals associated with avalanches.

At 0940 on 13 May, the Alert Level was raised from 3 to 4, the highest level, and ~ 4,500 people living near the volcano were evacuated.

On 15 May pyroclastic flows traveled as far as 4 km to the W. By 16 May, more than 22,000 people had been evacuated, according to figures posted at the district disaster center; about 16,870 people were evacuated from three districts in Central Java Province, and more than 5,600 others were evacuated from the Slemen district. On 17 May, pyroclastic flows traveled as far as 3 km. Local volcanologists reported that the lava dome continued to grow, but at a slower rate than during previous days.

Pyroclastic flows to the SW and SE reached 4 km on 19 May and 3 km on 20 May. On 22 May, the lava dome volume was estimated at ~ 2.3 million cubic meters. The Darwin VAAC reported that low-level emissions continued during 18-19 and 23 May. CVGHM recommended that residents who lived in valleys on the NNW flanks near Sat, Lamat, Senowo, Trising, and Apu Rivers and on the SE flank near Woro River be allowed to return to their homes. Residents remained evacuated from villages within a 7 km radius from the volcano's summit and within 300 m of the banks of the Krasak/Bebeng, Bedog, and Boyong Rivers to the SW, and the Gendol River to the SE.

According to news reports, an eruption produced a cloud of hot gas and ash on 17 May. Witnesses said the size of the plume was smaller than ash-and-gas plumes seen on 15 May. On 18 May, a representative for Merapi from the Center for Volcanological Research and Technology Development (part of CVGHM), reported new ashfall.

On 24-25 May, lava flows were observed moving SW towards the Krasak River and SE towards the Gendol River. News reports indicated that on 27 May a M 6.3 earthquake that killed about 5,400 people resulted in a three-fold increase in activity at Merapi. A M 5.9 earthquake coincided with pyroclastic flows of unknown origin that extended 3.8 km SW. During 28-30 May, multiple pyroclastic flows reached 3 km SE and 4 km SW. Gas plumes reached 500 m above the summit on 25 May, 1,200 m on 26 May, 100 m on 29 May, and 900 m on 30 May.

From 31 May to 6 June, SO2-bearing plumes were observed daily; on 1 June they reached 1.3 km above the summit. According to the Darwin VAAC, low-level emissions were visible on satellite imagery on 1 and 6 June. Multiple pyroclastic flows reached ~ 4 km SE toward the Gendol River and 3.5 km SW toward the Krasak and Boyong Rivers. CVGHM reported on 31 May that lava avalanches moved W for the first time during the recent eruption.

According to a volcanologist in Yogyakarta, lava-flow distances and dome volume had both approximately doubled since the 27 May M 6.2 earthquake. On 6 June, people living near the base of the volcano began to move into temporary shelters. Activities remain restricted within a 7 km radius from the volcano's summit and within 300 m of the banks of Krasak/Bebeng, Bedog, and Boyong Rivers to the SW, and Gendol River to the SE.

On 8 June, the lava-dome growth rate at Merapi was an estimated 100,000 cubic meters per day and the estimated volume was then ~ 4 million cubic meters. An estimated volume loss of 400,000 cubic meters on 4 June had been due to a partial collapse of the S part of the Geger Buaya crater wall, which was constructed from 1910 lava flows.

On 8 June, a pyroclastic flow, lasting 12 minutes, reached a distance of ~ 5 km SE toward the Gendol River, the predominant travel direction since the M 6.2 earthquake on 27 May. According to a news report, this event prompted approximately 15,500 people to evacuate from the Sleman district to the S and the Magelang district to the W. On 13 June, the Alert Level was lowered from 4 to 3 but renewed pyroclastic-flow activity the next day prompted a return to Alert Level 4.

Gas plumes were observed almost daily during 7-13 June and reached ~ 1.2 km above the summit on 10 June. The Darwin VAAC reported small ash plumes visible on satellite imagery; minor ashfall was reported to the S at an observatory outpost, and in Yogyakarta, about 32 km away.

Gas plumes emitted on 14 and 15 June reached 900 m above the summit. On 14 June a dome collapse lasting ~ 3.5 hours produced pyroclastic flows that reached 7 km SE. Two volunteers on a search-and-rescue team assisting with evacuation efforts were trapped in an underground refuge in Kaliadem village and died, the first fatalities of the current eruption. Stone (2006) wrote that the volunteers had ". . . sought refuge in a bunker, one of several on the mountain built for that contingency. The blast door was slightly ajar when rescuers dug down to the bunker the next day. The men had burned to death."

On 15 June, pyroclastic flows reached a distance of 4.5 km SE along the Gendol River. Pyroclastic flows continued during 16-19 June as a new dome grew. The Alert Level remained at 4.

During 21-25 June, seismic signals at Merapi indicated almost daily occurrences of rockfalls and pyroclastic flows. Due to inclement weather, pyroclastic flows were only observed on 24 June and reached a distance of 4 km SE along the Gendol River and 2.5 km SW along the Krasak River. Gas plumes were observed during 22-25 June and reached 1.5 km above the summit on 24 June.

Reference. Stone, Richard, 2006, Volcanology?Scientists steal a daring look at Merapi's explosive potential; Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), v. 312, pp. 1724-6.

Geological Summary. Merapi, one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, lies in one of the world's most densely populated areas and dominates the landscape immediately north of the major city of Yogyakarta. It is the youngest and southernmost of a volcanic chain extending NNW to Ungaran volcano. Growth of Old Merapi during the Pleistocene ended with major edifice collapse perhaps about 2,000 years ago, leaving a large arcuate scarp cutting the eroded older Batulawang volcano. Subsequent growth of the steep-sided Young Merapi edifice, its upper part unvegetated due to frequent activity, began SW of the earlier collapse scarp. Pyroclastic flows and lahars accompanying growth and collapse of the steep-sided active summit lava dome have devastated cultivated lands on the western-to-southern flanks and caused many fatalities.

Information Contacts: Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://www.vsi.esdm.go.id/); Associated Press (URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/indonesia_volcano); Reuters (URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060418/wl_nm/indonesia_volcano_dc_2).