A Russian volcano has started spewing ash over several hundred thousand square kilometers in one of the country’s largest eruptions in decades. The Shiveluch volcano, one of the most active in the Kamchatka Peninsula, which sits on Russia’s east coast, blew its top early in the morning on Tuesday, April 11. In the hours since the initial explosion, the mountain has created a dust cloud more than 12 miles high and 310 square miles across, forcing authorities to act.
The cloud’s height has led officials to close the nearby airspace, with the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team issuing an aviation red notice, warning that the “ongoing activity” could “affect international and low-flying aircraft”.
Some schools have closed on the ground in areas within the dust radius, with people advised not to leave their homes “unless absolutely necessary”.
Residents of Klyuchi, a village 30 miles to the southwest of Shiveluch, posted videos showing near-apocalyptic scenes.
Footage showed the dust cloud blocking out the sun above them, with inches of dust accumulating on the ground.
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Regional administrators have warned that while there are no plans for widespread evacuations, some residents may need to leave the area.
Vladimir Solodov, the Governor of Kamchatka, said some locals with health issues may require temporary evacuation.
In a post on the Russian social media platform VK, Solodov said people were experiencing trouble with local water supplies.
He added that regional health authorities have started inspecting residents.
Solodov wrote: “I also instructed the Ministry of Health that the doctors make a round of the residents – they went into every house and apartment.
“People’s health is the main thing! If someone needs help, it will be provided either on the spot or sent to the regional center.”
Nearby villages experienced power cuts after the eruption severed supplies, with emergency crews called to restore service.
Ashfall has reportedly extended far further than the ash cloud, reaching communities within a 67,108 square mile area.
Russian scientists believe that, while the area is highly volcanically active – with more than 30 volcanoes concentrated on the peninsula – the eruption is one of the most significant in decades.
The Russian Academy of Sciences Geophysical Survey estimated that the fallout is one of the largest in 60 years.
The academy’s Kamchatka branch director, Danila Chebrov, said the eruption was long in the making.
He said: “The volcano was preparing for this for at least a year…and the process is continuing though it has calmed down a little now.”