On the 19th of February school children in Indonesia fled their classrooms, running in a panicked frenzy to the nearest evacuation area as the cloud of ash rose behind them. Mount Sinabung volcano erupted, releasing 5 to 7 km of ash and hot gas into the air and destroyed a chunk of the peak when it erupted. The hot gas and ash reached temperatures between 600 and 800 degrees Celsius, with ash falls reaching 260km north of the volcano.
Five districts in the area were suffocated by the ash cloud and residents couldn't see more than five metres but there were no fatalities or injuries as a result of the eruption. The volcano had been periodically active for many years and had been erupting sporadically since 2010 but this was the strongest eruption in five years, according to UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Rescue teams blindly stumbled around the affected areas, struggling to see with streets covered in ash and wreckage. Flight warnings have been raised to their highest level around the volcano and Nur Isnin Istianto, head of the regional airport authority, said Kutacane airport in Aceh province had been closed, but the wind direction allowed the airport of Kualanamu, Meulaboh and Silangit to remain open.
Mount Sinabung is one of three active volcanoes in Indonesia and was dormant for 400 years before it erupted again in 2010, killing two people. It erupted again in 2014, killing 16 people and claimed another seven lives in 2016. Experts had placed the volcano on high alert since 2015 when it gushed hot ash but hadn't seen any activity in recent months until recently and is now marked as a no-man's land.
Indonesia is known to be the most active volcanic region in the world and has 127 active volcanoes. It's located on the Pacific “ring of fire” where tectonic plates meet and cause frequent tremors and volcanic activity.
Residents have been evacuated and are waiting for the "all clear" signal to return to the area and assess the damage the eruption inflicted on their homes.