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    Indonesia’s Mount Semeru volcano erupts, top alert status triggered

    LUMAJANG, INDONESIA (AFP) – Indonesia’s Mount Semeru erupted yesterday spewing hot ash clouds a mile into the sky and sending rivers of lava down its side, sparking the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people exactly one year after its last major eruption killed dozens.

    The eruption of the highest mountain in Java, some 800 kilometres southeast of Jakarta, prompted authorities to raise the alert status to the highest level.

    “Hot avalanches” caused by piles of lava at the tip of the 3,676-metre volcano slid down after the eruption, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Abdul Muhari said in a statement.

    The increased threat level “means the danger has threatened the people’s settlement and the volcano’s activity has escalated”, Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Centre (PVMBG) spokesperson Hendra Gunawan told broadcaster Kompas TV. No casualties or injuries were reported immediately after the eruption but Gunawan warned nearby residents not to travel within eight kilometres of the crater after the threat level was raised to four.

    The BNPB said 1,979 people were taken to 11 shelters, with at least six villages affected by the eruption.

    Images on local TV showed evacuees, mostly women and children, taking shelter in a school.

    Videos shared with AFP by local rescue group Irannala Rescue showed a huge black cloud rising from the volcano’s crater, engulfing the sky and blocking the sun in nearby villages.

    Mount Semeru releases volcanic materials during an eruption in Lumajang, East Java. PHOTO: AP
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