Monday, September 19, 2011

Mount Tambora, History's deadliest volcano comes back to life in Indonesia, sparking panic among villagers as Alert Level is Risen - 19th Sept 2011

Bold farmers in Indonesia routinely ignore orders to evacuate the slopes of live volcanoes, but those living on Tambora took no chances when history's deadliest mountain rumbled ominously this month.

Villagers like Hasanuddin Sanusi have heard since they were young how the mountain they call home once blew apart in the largest eruption ever recorded — an 1815 event widely forgotten outside their region — killing 90,000 people and blackening skies on the other side of the globe.

So, the 45-year-old farmer didn't wait to hear what experts had to say when Mount Tambora started being rocked by a steady stream of quakes. He grabbed his wife and four young children, packed his belongings and raced down its quivering slopes.

"It was like a horror story, growing up," said Hasanuddin, who joined hundreds of others in refusing to return to their mountainside villages for several days despite assurances they were safe.

"A dragon sleeping inside the crater, that's what we thought. If we made him angry — were disrespectful to nature, say — he'd wake up spitting flames, destroying all of mankind."

The April 1815 eruption of Tambora left a crater 11 kilometers (7 miles) wide and 1 kilometer (half a mile) deep, spewing an estimated 400 million tons of sulfuric gases into the atmosphere and leading to "the year without summer" in the U.S. and Europe.

It was 10 times more powerful than Indonesia's much better-known Krakatoa blast of 1883 — history's second deadliest. But it doesn't share the same international renown, because the only way news spread across the oceans at the time was by slowboat, said Tambora researcher Indyo Pratomo. Read More