JAKARTA, Dec 4 (Reuters) – A volcano erupted in Indonesia on Sunday, spewing a plume of ash 15km into the sky and forcing the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people, authorities said, as they issued their highest alert for the area in the east of Indonesia issued Java Island.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Semeru volcano eruption, and Indonesia’s Transport Ministry said there had been no impact on air travel, but vigilance notices had been sent to two regional airports.
“Most of the roads have been closed since this morning and now it’s raining volcanic ash and has obscured the view of the mountain,” Bayu Deny Alfianto, a community volunteer, told Reuters by phone from near the volcano.
Semeru, the highest mountain on Java, erupted last year killed more than 50 people and expel thousands.
Indonesia’s Civil Protection Agency (BNPB) said 1,979 people had been taken to 11 shelters and authorities had distributed masks to residents. The eruption began at 2:46 a.m. (1946 GMT on Saturday) and rescue, search and evacuation efforts were underway.
The volcano’s ash plume reached a height of 15 km (50,000 feet), said Japan’s meteorological agency, which initially warned the volcano could trigger a tsunami. He later ruled that out.
The eruption, about 640 km (400 miles) east of the capital Jakarta, follows a series of earthquakes in western Java, including one last month that killed more than 300 people.
Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, PVMBG, elevated volcanic activity to the highest level and warned residents not to get closer than 8 km (5 miles) to the Semeru eruption center.
Hot ash plumes were nearly 12 miles (19 km) from the center of the eruption, sources said.
PVMBG chief Hendra Gunawan said that compared to the volcano’s previous eruptions, a larger volume of magma could have built up in 2021 and 2020, which could pose a greater threat to a larger area.
“The hot clouds from Semeru could reach farther and to a distance where there are many apartment buildings,” he said.
In video sent to Reuters by police in the area, villagers were seen walking away from the volcano’s slopes, some with belongings stacked on motorbikes. A damaged bridge was covered with volcanic ash.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the world’s largest population living near a volcano, with 8.6 million people living within 10 km (6 miles) of one.
The deadly earthquake that struck West Java in late November had a magnitude of 5.6 but at a shallow depth. A magnitude 6.1 earthquake occurred at a deeper depth On Saturday, he sent people out of buildings, but it caused 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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