JAKARTA, Dec 4 (Reuters) – An erupting volcano in Indonesia sent a plume of ash 15 km into the sky on Sunday and forced the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people, authorities said, raising the highest alert for the country’s eastern region. The island of Java.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the eruption of Mount Semeru, and Indonesia’s transport ministry said there was no impact on air travel, but two regional airports had been alerted.
“Most of the roads have been closed since this morning and now volcanic ash is falling and covering the view of the mountain,” community volunteer Bayu Deny Alfianto told Reuters by phone from near the volcano.
Last year, as a result of the eruption of Semeru, the highest mountain on the island of Java, more than 50 people died and thousands of people left their homes.
Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said 1,979 people had been moved to 11 shelters and authorities were distributing masks to residents. The eruption began at 2:46 a.m. (1946 GMT Saturday) and rescue, search and evacuation efforts are ongoing.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency said that the ash of the volcano reached a height of 15 km. He later ruled it out.
The eruption, about 640 km (400 miles) east of the capital Jakarta, followed a series of earthquakes in western Java, including one that killed more than 300 people last month.
Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, PVMBG, raised the volcanic activity level to the highest level and warned residents to stay within 8 km (5 miles) of Semeru’s eruption center.
Hot ash clouds were reported to have drifted about 12 miles (19 km) from the epicenter.
PVMBG head Hendra Gunavan said the volcano could produce a larger volume of magma than its previous eruptions in 2021 and 2020, posing a greater threat to a larger area.
“Semeru’s warm clouds can reach further and further away where there are many habitats,” he said.
In a video sent to Reuters by police in the region, villagers were seen walking away from the slopes of the volcano, some with their belongings piled on motorbikes. The damaged bridge is covered with volcanic ash.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the world’s largest population living near a volcano, with 8.6 million people within 10 km (6 mi) of a volcano.
The deadly earthquake in West Java in late November had a magnitude of 5.6 but was shallow. Saturday’s 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck at a deeper depth, prompting people to flee buildings but causing no major damage or casualties.
Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman and Angie Teo in Jakarta; Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo; Edited by William Mallard and Lincoln Feast
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