Indonesia’s highest volcano, Mount Semeru, has erupted, releasing searing gas clouds and rivers of lava and prompting authorities to raise their volcano alert to its highest level.
Nearly 2,000 people in the densely populated island of Java have been evacuated from villages close to the peak. Sunday’s eruption blanketed several villages with falling ash, which blocked out the sun, but no casualties have been reported.
Increased volcanic activity on Sunday afternoon caused authorities to widen the danger zone around Semeru to 8km (5 miles) from the crater, said Hendra Gunawan, who heads the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation.
He advised locals to keep away from the volcano’s 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 killed 51 people and buried villages in layers of mud. Several hundred people suffered serious burns, and more than 10,000 people were evacuated.
Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted numerous times in the past 200 years. Still, as is the case with many of the 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, tens of thousands of people continue to live on its fertile slopes.
Indonesia, an archipelago nation of more than 270 million people, sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.