JAKARTA (Reuters) – A volcano erupted in Indonesia on Sunday, sending a cloud of ash 15 km into the sky and forcing the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people, as it issued its highest alert for the eastern region, authorities said. Java Island.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Semeru eruption, and Indonesia’s transport ministry said there was no impact on air travel, but alerts were sent to two regional airports for vigilance.
“Most of the roads have been closed since morning, and now it’s raining volcanic ash and the view of the mountain is covered,” volunteer Bayou Denny Alvento told Reuters by phone from near the volcano.
It erupted on Semeru, Java’s highest mountain, last year killing more than 50 people and displacing thousands.
Indonesia’s Disaster Reduction Agency (BNPB) said 1,979 people had been moved to 11 shelters and authorities had distributed masks to residents. The eruption began at 2:46 am (1946 GMT Saturday) and rescue, search and evacuation efforts are continuing.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said the volcanic ash plume had reached a height of 50,000 feet (15 km), which was initially alerting to the possibility that the volcano could cause a tsunami. Exclude it later.
The eruption, 640 km east of the capital, Jakarta, followed a series of earthquakes in West Java, including one last month that killed more than 300 people.
Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, PVMBG, has raised the level of volcanic activity to its highest levels and warned residents not to come within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of the epicenter of the Semeru eruption.
It added that hot ash clouds drifted about 12 miles (19 km) from the epicenter of the eruption.
PVMBG President Hendra Gunawan said that a larger volume of magma could have accumulated compared to the volcano’s previous eruptions, in 2021 and 2020, which could mean a greater danger to a larger area.
He said that “the hot clouds of Semeru can reach further and at a distance where there are many dwellings.”
In a video sent to Reuters by police in the area, villagers are seen walking away from the slopes of the volcano, some with their belongings piled on motorbikes. The damaged bridge was covered in volcanic ash.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the world’s largest number of volcanologists living within walking distance of a volcano, with a population of 8.6 million within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of one.
The deadly earthquake that struck West Java in late November had a magnitude of 5.6 but at a shallow depth. A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck at a deeper depth on Saturday, prompting people to flee buildings but causing no major damage or injuries.
(Reporting by Stefano Suleiman and Angie Teo) in Jakarta; Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo. Editing by William Mallard and Lincoln Feast
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