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Volcano eruption threatens Borobudur


Posted by | Kristian | November 10, 2010 | No Comments

Borobudur is one of the biggest and oldest Buddhist monuments in the world. It is rivalled only by Angkor Wat. But now it is under threat by a vicious neighbour; the mighty volcano Mount Merapi.

Borobudur – built in the 9th-century – was forgotten for centuries and only rediscovered in the 19th century. In the 1970ies it was restored and since about 1983 it is accessible for visitors. Borobudur is not nearly as famous as its Cambodian counterpart but some reckon it is actually more impressive. It does have a problem though. It is located approximately 50 kilometres north of Yogyakarta on Java and that’s dangerously close to the volcano Mount Merapi.

The Merapi is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. For the last few weeks it has been active and erupted massive ash clouds in to the air. A chronology of events here is to be found here: 2010 erruptions of Mount Merapi. Borobudur is only 30 kilometres south of the volcano and the ash slowly buries it.

The last tourists were admitted in early November but they were wearing masks already. The ash is too dangerous. Eventually the site was closed until further notice.

The ash is not only lethal for humans but also bad news for the monument itself. The ash contains acid and there is a chance that it corrodes the lime stone. Under normal circumstances we would be extremely worried about the ash and try to remove it as quickly as possible. As it stands things could get a lot worse though.

For centuries the volcano only ever erupted to the east. The inhabitants of Yogyakarta actually claim that a good spirit protects them and forces the volcano into the other direction. They renew their pact by some sort of pilgrimage. And so far it worked. Some geologists now warn though that this could change. A massive eruption could be imminent. And by massive they mean Krakatoa (Krakatau) region massive which is considered one of the most violent eruptions of the past 10.000 years. If such event occurs northing on Java will be safe.

In 1883, when Krakatoa exploded, it started very similar. At first the seismic activity was pretty intense. Then, for about three months, there were a number of lesser eruptions. A lot of ash, a lot of steam, business as usual one could say. But then on August 27 the volcano literally blew up. It wiped an entire island off the map. The explosion was heard as far as Perth in West Australia. That’s 3500 kilometres away!

I was actually planning to go to Indonesia within the next few months. I put everything on hold until we know a little bit more.

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