You may have heard about the most recent volcanic eruption here in Indonesia because of the massive numbers of travelers affected and flights cancelled due to volcanic ash being spewed into the air. We learned that when volcanoes spew ash like this, airports don’t shut down due to visibility issues- they shut down because if a plane sucks volcanic ash into its engine, the ash will turn to glass and damage the plane.
The volcano in question is called Gunung Raung (Mt. Raung), it’s 10,932 feet high (the tallest in the area, although less well-known than Mt. Ijen or Mt. Bromo,) and it’s about 45 km (27 mi) from our village. Here’s a map of our area.
Raung erupted on July 2nd and ever since then, people in our region have been talking about the “ash rain.” The ash blowing around the atmosphere was enough to close Bali airport as well as our tiny local airport, Blimbingsari, and the airport in Jember. To make things worse, flights this week have been overbooked anyway- practically everyone in Indonesia is in travel mode right now, trying to get back to their home villages for Idul Fitri (Eid Al-Fitr), the holiday that marks the end of Ramadhan. Our PCV friends who had been in the US and Australia were stranded for days in Melbourne and Jakarta while trying to get back to site, and our own Ba Pak Sumari had trouble getting here from his work in Makassar- he got on the first flight to Bali after the Denpasar airport opened again, and ended up taking a bus home from there.
Fortunately the ash rain hasn’t been too bad here, but it depends on which way the wind is blowing. A few days ago on our walk we stopped to watch as our neighbors swept piles of black ashes off their porches. We got home and had a bunch of black flecks on our faces and skin. A couple of days later on a particularly windy day, people at our house (including us) were stressing out about having to sweep over and over- the ashes just kept flying in and settling down. It felt like a dust storm outside. Craig said it felt like walking on an ash carpet inside.
Our town hasn’t been that bad, but other towns in our area have started doing Mask Drives because the local stores ran out of masks people can buy to protect their throats and lungs. Craig and I are wearing around our Peace Corps issued volcanic ash masks as needed. 🙂 here’s hoping the ash clears soon and everyone can get on with their daily business.