The cool, fertile plateaus of Indonesia’s North Sumatra region were rudely disrupted on Monday when Mount Sinabung suddenly erupted, spewing ash 4.4 miles into the sky. Clouds of ash and smoke spread in the sky above the normally placid region, turning the landscape into a scene from Stranger Things’ Upside-Down. Fortunately, no human casualties or injuries have been reported, but that doesn’t mean all parties involved emerged unscathed: the peak of the volcano itself, it seems, was completely obliterated by the blast.
On Monday after the eruption began, Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation released before and after photos showing the piece of the summit that was destroyed, which AP reports had a volume of 56.5 million cubic feet. Lava flowed down from the peak to distances up to three miles away from the center of the crater, illustrating just how powerful the blast was.
But despite the violence of the initial blast, it’s the ash and smoke fanning out over the volcano and dropping to the ground that will pose the most danger in the next few days. Ash has been reported as far out as Lhokseumawe, a town 162 miles to the northwest of the volcano, reports AccuWeather. At its worst, visibility in the area dropped to only 16 feet, and airports as far away as Darwin in northern Australia issued flight advisories because of impaired visibility.
Unexpected though Monday’s eruption was, it’s by no means an unprecedented event for Mount Sinabung, which is part of the “Ring of Fire” — the chain of 200-plus active volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean. After lying dormant for over 400 years, Sinabung violently erupted in August of 2010, killing dozens of people and forcing the evacuation of 30,000 people. There have been a number of smaller eruptions since then — ten since the initial 2010 event — but its increased activity has fortunately put local officials on high alert, preventing major casualties.
Unfortunately for Mount Sinabung’s damaged peak, those protections didn’t extend to the volcano itself.