Sumatra volcano ash blowing towards Malaysia

The Star 5 Feb 14;

PETALING JAYA: A thin layer of ash from a Sumatran volcano located 271km west of Pulau Pangkor is expected to arrive in parts of southwest peninsula Malaysia by this morning.

National Weather Forecast Centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said the affected areas could include coastal regions of Negri Sembilan, Malacca as well as Muar, Batu Pahat, Pontian and Kulaijaya in Johor.

“The amount of ash is not that much at the moment, probably a thin layer. It may be a bit hazy but it will be difficult to say how much,” he said when contacted.

He added that an advisory about the volcanic ash had been sent to the aviation industry.

The Meteorological Department in a statement on Monday had said that volcanic ash from Mount Sinabung, which erupted over the weekend and again on Monday, could be blown towards the southern states due to a northwesterly wind that is expected to persist until tomorrow.

“This condition may cause the volcanic ash to move towards the southern part of peninsular Malaysia, which may interfere with flight operations and reduce visibility,” the department said.

The peak of the volcano located in north Sumatra is 2,460m above sea level.

AFP reported 15 people were killed when Sinabung erupted over the weekend, shooting hot ash and rocks into the air. Authorities had evacuated about 30,000 people.

Sinabung, which had been sporadically erupting since September, is one of 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

When contacted, an official from The Department of Civil Aviation said that flight operations throughout Malaysia were currently unaffected.

“The important thing for aircraft to be able to land is visibility, which remains good in all our airports.

“If there is a deterioration in visibility, we will put our standard operating procedures into effect to ensure smooth flight operations,” said the official.

The Jakarta Post reported that the Indonesian government had raised the status on another 19 volcanoes in the country to alert level, which is the second-highest category in the wake of the Sinabung eruption.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency issued the raised status on Monday for the 19 volcanoes, which are scattered across the archipelago, but had yet to call for the evacuation of residents nearby.

In Johor Baru, state Department of Environment (DOE) director Mokhtar Abdul Majid said they would be taking Air Pollutant Index (API) readings every hour to assess the air quality.

“All this depends on the direction and speed of the wind but we will issue updates accordingly,” he said.

“Currently, (as of 5.30pm yesterday) there is no need to worry as the API reading for the state is an average of 50,” he said.

Any API reading between 51 to 100 is considered as moderate, 100 to 200 as unhealthy, 200 to 300 as very unhealthy and 300 and above as hazardous.

Mokhtar said if the layer of ash hits districts here, it would be advisable for the elderly, children and those with respiratory diseases to refrain from heading outdoors.

Haze alert in Johor
New Straits Times 5 Feb 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Districts in Johor will be hit by slight haze following the eruption of Mount Sinabung in the Karo district in North Sumatra, Indonesia, the Malaysian Meteorological Department said.

Its central forecast division director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah yesterday said the current north westerly wind caused the ashes from the eruption to move towards the south of Peninsular Malaysia.

"The wind direction will cause the ashes to move to districts in Johor namely Batu Pahat, Pontian, Kulaijaya and Johor Baru."