JAKARTA, Indonesia Indonesia’s tallest volcano on its most densely populated island spewed hot clouds of gas and rivers of lava on Sunday in its latest eruption.
According to National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari, monsoon rains eroded and eventually collapsed the lava dome atop the 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) Mount Semeru, causing the eruption.
Several villages were covered in falling ash, blocking out the sun, but no casualties were reported. Several hundred residents, their faces smeared with volcanic dust and rain, fled to temporary shelters or fled to other safe areas.
Thick columns of ash shot more than 1,500 meters (almost 5,000 feet) into the sky, as gas and lava flowed down Semeru’s slopes toward a nearby river.
The volcano’s increased activity on Sunday afternoon prompted authorities to expand the danger zone to 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the crater, said Hendra Gunawan, who heads the Volcanology and Geology Hazard Mitigation Center.
He said scientists raised the volcano’s highest alert level and people were advised to stay away from the southeastern sector along the Besuk Kobokan River, which is in the path of the lava flow.
Semeru’s last major eruption was in December last year, when it erupted with fury that left 51 people dead in villages buried in layers of mud. Several hundred others suffered severe burns and the explosion forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people. The government took about 2,970 houses out of the danger zone.
Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted many times in the past 200 years. However, as is the case with many of Indonesia’s 129 active volcanoes, tens of thousands of people continue to live on its fertile slopes.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a series of horseshoe-shaped fault lines, and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.
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