High concentration of sulfur dioxide from Indonesia’s Mt Ruang volcanic eruption blankets Sarawak, Sabah, Kalimantan

A screengrab of an air current map from Windy.com showing a high concentration of sulfur dioxide moving towards Borneo.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, April 19: Satellite imagery has revealed a high concentration of sulfur dioxide (SPO2) resulting from the volcanic eruption of Mount Ruang in North Sulawesi, Indonesia engulfing Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan as of 4pm today (April 19).

According to the website VolcanoDiscovery.com, the plume of sulfur dioxide from the recent eruption of Mount Ruang volcano has extended over 1,000 kilometres.

It reported that the Sentinel-5P satellite observations captured the emissions of sulfur dioxide on April 18 as they drifted across a vast area of the Celebes Sea and the Borneo Island.

Sulfur dioxide gas, as stated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, can result in acid rain and air pollution downwind from a volcano.

In addition to health hazards associated with close and long-term exposure, sulfur dioxide emissions can lead to environmental effects, such as reduced visibility due to the formation of particulate matter.

This reduction in visibility was the reason behind flight cancellations to East Malaysia on April 18.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM), Mount Ruang is a stratovolcano located near Manado in North Sulawesi province, Indonesia, approximately 800 kilometres from Malaysia.

The recent eruption commenced at 9.45pm on Tuesday and intensified with four subsequent eruptions throughout Wednesday.

Following the eruption, volcanic ash clouds have been observed within the Kota Kinabalu Flight Information Region (FIR), posing a significant risk to aircraft safety.

Yesterday, the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) issued a Significant Meteorological Information (SIGMET) 1, indicating ash clouds moving westerly at a speed of 30 knots from the surface to 55,000 feet and intensifying.

CAAM, in their safety information, emphasised that volcanic ash clouds can cause severe damage to aircraft engines and systems, potentially resulting in engine failure, reduced visibility, and damage to critical components.

They also noted that volcanic ash can interfere with aircraft avionics, posing a serious threat to flight safety.

Meanwhile, both Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia have commenced gradual resumption of flight operations to Sarawak and Sabah this morning as they work towards normalisation.

However, there remain multiple scheduled flights being cancelled for April 19 due to safety concerns. — DayakDaily