JAKARTA, Dec 5 (Reuters) – Thousands of residents were on high alert on Monday after a violent eruption on the island’s highest volcano in East Java, Indonesia, prompted authorities to impose an 8-kilometer travel ban and force the evacuation of entire villages.
The provincial search and rescue agency sent teams to the worst-hit areas near Mount Semeru to assess the damage, as low rainfall provided some relief, Pasarnas spokesman Tholip Vadelehan told Reuters.
“Yesterday, the amount of rain was so high that all the material came down from the hilltop. But today, so far, there is no rain, so it is relatively safe,” he said.
There were no casualties and no immediate disruption to air travel.
The 3,676 meter volcano erupted at 2.46pm local time (0746GMT) on Sunday. Footage captured by local residents showed Mount Semeru spewing a huge ash cloud above its crater, which later engulfed the mountain and surrounding rice fields, roads and bridges, turning the sky black. A video shared on Twitter by the Environment Ministry shows a pyroclastic flow of lava, rocks and hot gases spewing from the mountainside.
People have been leaving on motorcycles since the blast, officials said, forcing nearly 2,500 people to evacuate.
Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Agency raised the alert level for Mount Semeru to the highest level on Sunday. The agency warned residents not to come within 8 km (5 mi) of the summit or 500 meters along riverbanks due to the risk of lava flows.
Last year’s Semaru eruption killed more than 50 people and displaced thousands.
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.
Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia’s archipelago of 270 million is one of the most disaster-prone countries on Earth.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the largest population living near a volcano worldwide, with 8.6 million within 10km (6.2 miles).
Statement by Ananda Teresa; Written by Kate Lamb; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.