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Published: January 2008

Indonesia On Alert

On November 24, 2007 gas spurts and rivers of incandescent lava flow from the crater of a young volcano that has emerged in the same place where, 125 years ago, the biggest volcanic eruption in history took place.

By Eva van den Berg
Photograph by Marco Fulle, www.stromboli.net
After the Krakatau volcano blew in August 1883, the portion of the Indonesian island where it had stood vanished beneath the waters of the Sunda Strait. The volcano seemed to have disappeared forever, but in 1927 a posthumous child, Anak Krakatau, rose from the depths on the very same spot. It cautiously poked its summit out of the sea and gradually kept growing. By 1973 it measured 580 feet (190 meters); it's now up to 900 (300).

Located between the islands of Java and Sumatra, Anak Krakatau is on a small, uninhabited island. But each time it rumbles, it sends a shudder through the local collective memory. So far it hasn't erupted violently, but experts suspect it will someday.

When it burst into action on October 30, 2007—almost at the same time as three other Indonesian volcanoes, Mount Kelud in Java and Soputan and Karangetang in Sulawesi—people in the area understandably panicked. Especially the people living near Mount Kelud, a 5,200-foot (1,713 meters) giant that killed 5,000 people in 1919 and 34 more in 1990. Thousands of people fled their homes, until scientists with the Indonesian Center for Volcanology said they were in no immediate danger.

Kelud, regarded as one of the ten most dangerous volcanoes in the world, hasn't erupted violently since 1990, releasing its energy through the process of expansive eruption and forming a dome of lava. But since October, Anak Krakatau has hurled up a gigantic cloud of smoke, ash, and incandescent rocks—a warning to Indonesians to be on the alert.
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