JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian authorities raised the warning for Semeru volcano on Java island to the highest level on Sunday after an eruption sent a plume of ash into the air.
The evacuation of people, including children and the elderly, who live near the volcano in East Java province, also began with the evacuation of 93 residents so far to shelters, Indonesia’s Disaster Reduction Agency said in a statement.
The Japan Meteorological Agency, which is monitoring a possible tsunami there, said the plume had reached a height of 50,000 feet (15 km).
The eruption of the volcano in the eastern part of Java, about 640 km east of the capital, Jakarta, followed a series of earthquakes in the west of the island, including one last month that killed more than 300 people.
Raising the level of volcanic activity to IV from III, the head of the Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, PVMBG, said in a text message.
With the alert level raised, authorities have warned residents not to conduct any activities within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of the Semeru eruption center, adding that hot ash clouds have reached as far as 11.8 miles (19 kilometers) from the eruption center.
PVMBG President Hendra Gunawan said the agency sees potential for an increase in magma supply this year compared to previous eruptions in 2021 and 2020.
“So the Semeru hot clouds can reach much further (this year) and at that distance there are many dwellings,” he said.
Around the same time last year, the eruption of Semeru volcano, Java’s highest mountain, left more than 50 dead and many more missing, while thousands were displaced.
Some nearby residents have been independently evacuated to safer buildings such as mosques and schools, according to a statement from the Lumajang regional government, where Semeru is located.
“Most of the roads have been closed since this morning. Now it’s raining volcanic ash and covering the mountain landscape,” Bayou Denny Alvento, a local volunteer, told Reuters by phone.
He said small volcanic eruptions were continuing and it was raining in the area.
The agency said in a statement that the volcano began erupting at 2:46 am (1946 GMT Saturday). Videos posted on social media showed ash clouds in nearby areas.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the world’s largest population living within the vicinity of a volcano, including 8.6 million within a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius.
The deadly earthquake that struck Cianjur, West Java, in late November was a shallow earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6. A 6.1-magnitude earthquake on Saturday in Al-Qura prompted people to flee buildings but did not cause major damage.
(Reporting by Stefano Suleiman and Angie Teo) in Jakarta; Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo. Editing by William Mallard and Lincoln Feast
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