JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian island devastated by a powerful earthquake and tsunamithat has killed at least 1,400 people was was hit with another natural disaster early Wednesday: A volcanic eruption.A government volcanologist said it's possible the eruption of Mount Soputan, on the island of Sulawesi, was accelerated by Friday's 7.5 magnitude temblor."It could be that this earthquake triggered the eruption, but the direct correlation has yet to be seen," Kasbani, the head of Indonesia's Vulcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation agency, told online news portal Tempo.
Kasbani, who uses one name, said volcanic activity had been increasing at Soputan since August and began surging Monday. No evacuations were immediately ordered after Wednesday's eruption, which sent ash 19,700 feet — more 3.7 miles — into the sky.Nazli Ismail, a geophysicist at University of Syiah Kuala, Banda Aceh on Sumatra island, urged caution and stressed there was no concrete evidence to show they are linked."People talk about the butterfly effect. The concept is that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a catastrophe," he said. "So it is possible for the earthquake to trigger the volcano eruption, but it's not conclusive."Nazri said the Soputan volcano eruption isn't surprising as Indonesia sits on the seismically active Pacific "Ring of Fire," and Soputan is one of the most active volcanoes on the island.
Planes were warned of the ash clouds because volcanic ash is hazardous for their engines.The earthquake in Central Sulawesi set off a tsunami and has devastated several communities.Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 250 million people and government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.