One person has died and dozens more have suffered burns after the highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java erupted, spewing thick columns of ash into the sky.
- Mount Semaru’s eruption leaves surrounding towns and villages covered in volcanic ash
- The eruption was followed by rain and storms which has formed thick mud
- Television reports show people running in panic under a huge ash cloud
Videos posted on social media show terrified people running from approaching clouds of ash from Mount Semeru.
Other footage shows that, in places, the sun was completely blocked out, plunging communities into darkness.
Tents have been set up for thousands of people who’ve abandoned their homes, many of which have been destroyed or covered in ash.
At least one villager died from burns and dozens were admitted to hospital.
A thunderstorm and days of rain — which had eroded and finally collapsed the lava dome atop the 3,676-metre Semeru — triggered an eruption, said Eko Budi Lelono, who heads the geological survey centre.
He said flows of searing gas and lava travelled up to 800 metres to a nearby river at least twice on Saturday.
People were advised to stay 5 kilometres from the crater’s mouth, the agency said.
“Thick columns of ash have turned several villages to darkness,” Lumajang district head Thoriqul Haq said.
Several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas, he said, adding that power blackouts hampered the evacuation.
The debris and lava, mixed with the rainfall, formed thick mud that destroyed the main bridge connecting Lumajang and the neighbouring district of Malang, as well as a smaller bridge, Mr Haq said.
Despite an increase in activity since Wednesday, Semeru’s alert status has remained at the third-highest of four levels since it began erupting last year, and Indonesia’s Volcanology Centre for Geological Hazard Mitigation did not raise it this week, Mr Lelono said.
One man died from severe burns, and 41 others were admitted to hospital with burn injuries, said Indah Masdar, the deputy district head.
Ms Masdar said two villagers were reported missing and several sand miners were trapped in isolated areas along the village river.
Entire houses in Curah Kobokan village were damaged by volcanic debris, Ms Masdar said.
Television reports showed people running in panic under a huge ash cloud, their faces wet from rain mixed with volcanic dust.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines.