Hundreds of people evacuate as Indonesia’s highest volcano erupts, releasing thick clouds of gas and ash.
A volcano on Indonesia’s densely populated island of Java has erupted, spewing a huge column of ash into the air and prompting evacuations of villages in the area.
Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) warned residents on Sunday living near Mount Semeru in East Java province – located around 640km (400 miles) southeast of the capital Jakarta – not to conduct any activities within 8km (4.9 miles) of the volcano and to keep away from riversides in the area due to risks of lava flow.
The agency said it has raised the volcano’s alert status to the highest level.
“Most of the road accesses have been closed since this morning. Now it’s raining volcanic ash and it has covered the view of the mountain,” Bayu Deny Alfianto, a local volunteer told the Reuters news agency by phone.
Several hundred people have begun moving to temporary shelters or evacuating for safe areas, said Joko Sambang, who heads the BNPB’s office in Lumajang, East Java province.
Mount Semeru, Indonesia’s highest volcano, began erupting at 2:46am local time (19:46 GMT on Saturday), according to the BNPB.
Videos posted on social media showed huge clouds of grey ash in areas near the volcano.
Gunungapi Semeru kembali muntahkan Awan Panas Guguran (APG) pada hari Minggu (4/12) sejak pukul 02.46 WIB, dengan kolom abu teramati berwarna kelabu dengan intensitas sedang hingga tebal ke arah tenggara dan selatan setinggi kurang lebih 1.500 meter di atas puncak. #Semeru #APG pic.twitter.com/v3mtSR4ILW
— BNPB Indonesia (@BNPB_Indonesia) December 4, 2022
Abdul Muhari, a spokesman for the BNPB, said the eruption was caused by monsoon rains eroding and collapsing the lava dome on top of the 3,676-metre (12,060-foot) Mount Semeru.
Japan’s Meteorology Agency meanwhile said it was monitoring for the possibility of a tsunami after the eruption. There was no immediate comment from the BNPB on Japan’s warning of a tsunami threat.
A sudden eruption of Mount Semeru last year killed at least 51 people, injured more than 100, and thousands of houses and buildings were damaged.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the largest population globally living in close proximity to a volcano, including 8.6 million within 10km (6 miles).
The Indonesian archipelago of more than 270 million people sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horseshoe-shaped series of geological fault lines, and is prone to volcanic activity and earthquakes.