Jakarta: Indonesia’s tallest volcano on the most populous island released scorching clouds of gas and lava flows during its latest eruption on Sunday.
Monsoon rains eroded and eventually collapsed the lava dome atop 3,676-meter Mount Semeru, triggering the eruption, National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said.
Several villages were covered with falling ash blocking the sun, but no casualties were reported. Several hundred residents, their faces smeared with volcanic dust and rain, fled to temporary shelters or moved to other safe areas.
Thick columns of ash were blown more than 5,000 feet into the air as scorching gas and lava flowed down the slopes of Semeru into a nearby river.
Increased activity from the volcano on Sunday afternoon prompted authorities to widen the danger zone to 8 kilometers from the crater, said Hendra Gunawan, head of the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center.
He said scientists raised the volcano’s alert level to the highest and people were advised to stay out of the southeastern sector along the Besuk Kobokan River, which is in the path of the lava flow.
Semeru’s last major eruption was in December last year when it exploded with fury killing 51 people in villages buried in layers of mud. Several hundred others suffered severe burns and the eruption forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people. The government has removed about 2,970 homes from the danger zone.
Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted numerous times over the past 200 years. Yet, as is the case with many of Indonesia’s 129 active volcanoes, tens of thousands of people still live on its fertile slopes.