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Authorities raise Mt. Lewotobi status, close Maumere airport amid ongoing eruption

Jakarta Post - January 4, 2024

Jakarta – The Transportation Ministry has temporarily closed Fransiskus Xaverius Seda Airport, the main airport serving East Nusa Tenggara's second-largest city Maumere on Flores Island, after Mount Lewotobi Laki-Laki began erupting on Monday.

Air Transportation Director General M. Kristi Endah Murni said the airport, also known as Frans Seda or simply Maumere airport, had been closed for safety reasons due to the thick ash that blanketed the facility located around a two-hour drive from the volcano.

"The airport will reopen if the volcanic ash no longer threatens the safety of flights," Kristi said on Thursday, as quoted by Bisnis.com.

Mt. Lewotobi Laki-Laki is in East Flores regency, which stretches from the eastern border of Sikka regency where the airport is located, and first erupted on New Year's Day.

It released a column of ash 1.5 kilometers above its peak, according to the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM), and continuous tremors measuring 7 millimeters in amplitude were recorded until Wednesday, indicating ongoing volcanic activity.

The East Flores administration elevated on Jan. 3 the status of Mt. Lewotobi Laki-Laki from level II (Waspada/advisory) to III (Siaga/watch) on the country's four-level volcano alert system. It also advised thousands of residents to evacuate the area.

Authorities reported that more than 2,200 people had fled their homes to safety in temporary shelters.

"The emergency status will be effective for 14 days starting from January 1 to 14, 2024," East Flores acting regent Doris Alexander Rihi said on Wednesday, as quoted by Kompas.com.

Doris revealed that all costs incurred as a result of elevating the volcano's alert status would be covered by the East Flores provincial budget, or other nonbinding, legitimate funding sources.

He added that the emergency could be extended in the event of increased volcanic activity at Mt. Lewotobi.

"It can also be upgraded to the next level", Doris said, referring to the national system's Level IV Awas (warning), also known as red alert.

The airport's closure on Thursday led to the cancellation of six flights plying the route between Makassar and Kupang, the provincial capital.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2024/01/04/authorities-raise-mt-lewotobi-status-close-maumere-airport-amid-ongoing-eruption.htm