A volcano on Indonesia’s densely populated island of Java has erupted, spewing a huge column of ash into the air and prompting nearly 2,000 people to evacuate from villages in the area.
Following the eruption of the Semeru volcano, Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said on Sunday 1,979 people had been moved to 11 shelters and authorities had distributed masks to residents.
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There were no immediate reports of any casualties and Indonesia’s transport ministry said that there was no impact on air travel but notices had been sent to two regional airports for vigilance.
“Most roads have been closed since this morning and now it is raining volcanic ash and it has covered the view of the mountain,” community volunteer Bayu Deny Alfianto told Reuters by telephone from near the volcano.
Earlier in the day, the BNPB had warned residents living near Mount Semeru – 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 eruption began at 2:46 am (1946 GMT on Saturday) and rescue, search and evacuation efforts were going on. 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.