JAKARTA, Dec 4 (Reuters) – A volcano in Indonesia erupted on Sunday, spewing ash 15 kilometers high and forcing the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people, while they issued the highest level of warning for eastern Indonesia. java island.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Semeru eruption, and Indonesia’s transport ministry said air travel was not affected, but two regional airports had been notified to increase vigilance.
“Most roads have been closed since this morning and now it’s raining ash covering the view of the mountain,” community volunteer Bayu Deny Alfianto told Reuters by phone from near the volcano.
Semeru, Java’s tallest mountain, erupted last year, killing more than 50 people and displacing thousands.
Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said 1,979 people had been moved to 11 shelters and authorities had distributed face masks to residents. The eruption began at 2:46am (1946 GMT on Saturday) and rescue, search and evacuation efforts are underway.
The volcano’s ash column reached heights of 50,000 feet (15 kilometers), the Japan Meteorological Agency said, and the agency was initially on the alert for the possibility that the volcano could trigger a tsunami. It later ruled out that possibility.
The eruption, about 640 kilometers (400 miles) east of the capital Jakarta, followed a series of earthquakes in western Java, including one last month that killed more than 300 people.
Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geohazard Mitigation Center (PVMBG) raised the volcanic activity level to its highest level and warned residents not to come within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of the eruption center of Mount Semeru.
It said the hot ash cloud had drifted nearly 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the center of the eruption.
Hendra Gunawan, head of PVMBG, said more magma was likely to accumulate than the volcano’s previous eruptions in 2021 and 2020, which could mean a larger area at greater risk .
“The heat cloud from Semeru may reach further afield where there are many dwellings,” he said.
In a video sent to Reuters by police in the area, villagers could be seen evacuating from the volcano’s slopes, some of them stacking their belongings on motorcycles. A damaged bridge was covered in ash.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia is the world’s most populous nation living near volcanoes, with 8.6 million people living within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of a volcano.
The deadly quake in West Java in late November was 5.6 in magnitude but shallower. Saturday’s 6.1-magnitude quake struck at a much deeper depth, causing people to flee from buildings but causing no major damage or casualties.
Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman and Angie Teo in Jakarta; Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo; Editing by William Mallard and Lincoln Feast
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