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Eruption of Indonesia's Mount Merapi unlikely to affect Singapore

By Sharon See, Channel NewsAsia
15 May 2006

SINGAPORE : Indonesia's Mount Merapi erupted on Monday morning, spewing deadly hot ash and volcanic gases.

It was the most active the volcano in Central Java had been since the highest alert was raised.

But experts in Singapore told Channel NewsAsia it was unlikely the eruption would affect Singapore for now.

Experts say the eruption resulted in pyroclastic flows, which are deadly clouds of ash, gas and debris.

These clouds can travel several kilometres and cause ash to rain down.

The last time Mount Merapi erupted was in 1994; it claimed 66 lives.

But experts here believe there should be "no direct consequences on Singapore."

Said Associate Professor David Higgitt, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, "Singapore is too far away to be affected by an eruption like anything we've seen before in Merapi. Singapore is about 1,300 kilometres away from Merapi, and we know that ash covered maybe 400 kilometres in the previous eruption, but not as close as Singapore."

Scientists say Merapi is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Indonesia, but Monday's eruption was "relatively small".

Said John Low, executive meteorological officer (R&D), Meteorological Services Division, "For the case of Mount Merapi, there were several eruptions in the past 20-odd years, but none of them actually affected the air quality of Singapore. But we had a case of eruption from Mt Pinatubo in 1991. In that eruption, some of the ash did travel to Singapore and then caused a slight increase in our PSI from our good range to our moderate range."

The Met Services is closely monitoring the situation, and says Singaporeans need not be unduly worried.

Said Mr Low, "We're having light and variable winds. Under such circumstances, even if there's an eruption, it is unlikely that Singapore's air quality will be affected, because the ash or the smoke will be dispersed before they reach Singapore."

But the experts caution that it remains to be seen if Merapi has fully erupted. - CNA /ct