Residents flee in panic as Indonesia's Semeru volcano erupts

Residents flee in panic as Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts
© Provided by Al Jazeera Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire,’ a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines [FILE: EPA]

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano on Java island has erupted, spewing thick columns of ash high into the sky and triggering panic among people living nearby.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from Saturday’s eruption.

Videos shared by the country’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) showed residents running as towering smoke and ash blanketed some nearby villages in Lumajang district in East Java province.

Catatan yang dihimpun Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG), guguran lava pijar teramati dengan jarak luncur kurang lebih 500-800 meter dengan pusat guguran berada kurang lebih 500 meter di bawah kawah.

— BNPB Indonesia (@BNPB_Indonesia) December 4, 2021

The sudden eruption was accompanied by a thunderstorm and rain, which pushed lava and smouldering debris and formed thick mud that destroyed at least one bridge connecting two main villages of Pronojiwo and Candipuro, as well as hampering the evacuation, Lumajang district head Thoriqul Haq told TV One.

“Thick columns of ash have turned several villages to darkness,” Haq said, adding that several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas.

Television reports showed people running in panic under a huge ash cloud, their faces wet from rain mixed with volcanic dust.

The 3,676-metre (12,060-foot) Semeru, the highest on the country’s most densely populated island, had last erupted in January, with no casualties.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines. Indonesia has about 128 active volcanoes.

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