Shaken in Indonesia

2 minute read
Simon Elegant

As if two massive earthquakes and the Dec. 26 tsunami weren’t enough, Indonesia has a new geological concern: a string of volcanoes threatening to erupt. Tens of thousands of residents living near Mount Talang on the island of Sumatra fled their homes after the mountain began spewing hot ash last Tuesday. Two days later, Mount Tangkuban Parahu, a 2,084-m peak only 16 km from Bandung, the country’s third-largest city, grumbled to life, bringing to 11 the number of Indonesian volcanoes now being monitored for possible eruption.

Indonesian scientists say the Dec. 26 and March 28 quakes off the coast of Sumatra have increased the area’s seismic instability, leading to a sudden spike in activity among the country’s volcanoes. Government volcanologist Syamsul Rizal says that although chances of a major eruption are slight, scientists are monitoring seismic activity and gas emissions to avoid another devastating surprise like the tsunami: “We already have an early-warning system in place.” Official warnings don’t cut much ice with Euis Halimah, who runs a tourist stall on the rim of Tangkuban Parahu’s sulfurous crater. “I can’t just stop work,” she says. “I have to feed my kids.” Anyway, Euis would rather put her faith in Mother Nature’s early-warning system: “If I see the birds leaving, then I’ll go too.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at