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Hundreds evacuated after eruption of Indonesia's Mount Semeru volcano

  • 4 Dec 2022

Several villages were blanketed with falling ash, blocking out the sun, but no casualties have been reported.

The eruption on the eastern part of Java island follows a series of earthquakes on the west of the island, including one last month that killed more than 300 people. ( Agus Harianto / AFP )

Indonesia’s highest volcano on its most densely populated island has released searing gas clouds and rivers of lava in its latest eruption, sparking the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people exactly one year after its last major eruption killed dozens.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Sunday that 1,979 people were taken to 11 shelters, with at least 6 villages affected by the eruption.

Monsoon rains eroded and finally collapsed the lava dome atop 3,676-metre (12,060-foot) Mount Semeru in east Java, causing the eruption, according to BNPB spokesperson Abdul Muhari, citing information from the Vulcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Agency (PVMBG) at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

Authorities raised the threat level from III to IV, the highest level, which "means the danger has threatened the people's settlement and the volcano's activity has escalated," PVMBG spokesperson Hendra Gunawan told broadcaster Kompas TV.

Several villages were blanketed with falling ash, blocking out the sun, but no casualties have been reported.

Thick columns of ash were blasted more than 1,500 metres (nearly 4,000 feet) into the sky, while searing gas and lava flowed down Semeru’s slopes, traveling toward a nearby river.

"Hot avalanches" caused by piles of lava at the tip of the volcano slid down after the eruption, Muhari said.

Hundreds evacuated 

People were advised to stay 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the crater’s mouth, and keep off the southeastern sector area along the Besuk Kobokan river located about 13 kilometres (8 miles) from the crater.

Several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas, mostly women, children and elders, said Joko Sambang who heads the disaster management agency in Lumajang, East Java province

"Japan's weather agency warned that a tsunami could arrive at the islands of Miyako and Yaeyama in the southern prefecture of Okinawa," Kyodo news agency reported.

Japan's Meteorological Agency later said that there was no tsunami impact, public broadcaster NHK said.

READ MORE: Death toll from Indonesia earthquake soars over 300

The eruption on the eastern part of Java island, some 640 kilometres (400 miles) east of the capital Jakarta, follows a series of earthquakes on the west of the island, including one last month that killed more than 300 people.

Semeru’s last major eruption was in December last year, when the rumbling volcano erupted with fury and left 51 people dead in villages that were buried in layers of mud. Several hundred others were injured with serious burns, and the eruption forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 villagers. The government moved about 2,970 houses out of the danger zone.

Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted numerous times in the last 200 years. Still, as is the case with many of the 129 active volcanoes monitored in Indonesia, tens of thousands of people continue to live on its fertile slopes.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines, and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

READ MORE: Earthquake shakes Indonesia's West Java again

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