JAKARTA, Dec 4 (Reuters) – A volcano erupted in Indonesia on Sunday, spewing a 15-kilometre cloud of ash into the sky and forcing the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people, authorities said, issuing their highest warning for the area. in eastern Java Island.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Semeru volcano eruption and Indonesia’s transport ministry said there was no impact on air travel, but notices were sent to two regional airports to be vigilant.
“Most of the roads have been closed since this morning and now it is raining volcanic ash and it has blocked the view of the mountain,” Bayu community volunteer Deny Alfianto told Reuters by telephone from near the volcano.
Semeru, the highest mountain in Java, erupted last year killing more than 50 people and displacing thousands.
Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said 1,979 people had been transferred 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 were underway.
The volcano’s ash column reached a height of 50,000 feet (15 km), said the Japan Meteorological Agency, which had initially been on alert for the possibility that the volcano could trigger a tsunami. He later discarded it.
The eruption, some 640 km (400 miles) east of the capital Jakarta, follows a series of earthquakes in west Java, including one last month that killed more than 300 people.
The Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, PVMBG, raised the level of volcanic activity to its highest level and warned residents not to come closer than 8 km (5 miles) from the center of the Semeru eruption. .
The hot ash clouds had moved nearly 12 miles (19 km) from the center of the eruption, he said.
PVMBG chief Hendra Gunawan said a larger volume of magma could have accumulated compared to the volcano’s previous eruptions, in 2021 and 2020, which could mean greater danger for a larger area.
“Semeru’s hot clouds could reach farther and at a distance where there are many residences,” he said.
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. A damaged bridge was covered in volcanic ash.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the world’s largest population living near volcanoes, with 8.6 million people within a 10 km (6 mi) radius of one.
The deadly late November earthquake that struck West Java was magnitude 5.6 but shallow. A 6.1 earthquake struck in a greater depth on Saturday people ran out of buildings but did not cause extensive damage or casualties.
Reporting by Stefano Sulaiman and Angie Teo in Jakarta; Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo; Edited by William Mallard and Lincoln Feast
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