Fitri R. | September 02, 2011
Dompu, West Nusa Tenggara. Residents who have spent most of their lives living on the slopes of Indonesia’s infamous Mount Tambora volcano are unfazed by the rumblings they are increasingly feeling from underneath the earth and warnings from the authorities.
The status of Tambora, responsible for by far the deadliest eruption in human history, was raised at 11 a.m. on Tuesday to the second-highest alert status. Located on Sumbawa island just east of Lombok, the volcano first starting showing signs of awakening in April. In early August, it spewed thick, white smoke 20 meters into the sky.
Despite the activity, residents said they were not worried, according to Syaifullah, the head of the Pekat subdistrict, which lies on the mountain’s slope.
“The hundreds of families in the villages and hamlets that lay between five to 10 kilometers from the peak have not shown any panic and continue to conduct their daily activity as usual,” Syaifullah said.
Authorities have not ordered any evacuations and have only warned residents to be on alert. Two villages, Pancasila and Doro Peti, are situated within five kilometers of Tambora’s peak.
The volcano’s April 10, 1815, eruption killed more than 90,000 people, including those who died in the aftermath of the event from famine and disease. It is estimated to have had a Volcanic Explosivity Index value of 7, the only such explosion since the Hatepe eruption in New Zealand in 180 AD and only the fifth in human history.
Classified as a “supercolossal event,” Tambora’s 1815 eruption ejected immense amounts of volcanic dust into the upper atmosphere, significantly impacting the global climate for many years afterward. In Indonesia, the volcano’s roar could be heard more than 800 miles away.
Dust and sulfur emitted by the volcano are thought to be the cause of the “Year Without a Summer” in Europe and the Americas in 1816, which caused massive crop failures and widespread famine.
There is a possibility that an explosion of the same scale could happen again. Despite the magnitude of the 1815 event, though, residents have some cause for optimism. The volcano has erupted three times since 1815, but none of those events achieved a VEI value of more than 2.
The province is planning a bicentenary commemoration in 2015 of the eruption of the volcano. Infrastructure improvements were being carried out across the province to be completed by 2015, including the construction of a new port.