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Lava flows as Indonesia’s Mount Merapi continues to erupt

YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) – Indonesia’s Mount Merapi continued to erupt yesterday, forcing authorities to halt tourism and mining activities on the slopes of the country’s most active volcano.

The volcano on the densely populated island of Java unleashed clouds of hot ash shortly before midnight on Wednesday into early morning Thursday, and fast-moving pyroclastic flows – a mixture of rock, lava and gas – travelled up to five kilometres down its slopes.

It was Mount Merapi’s biggest lava flow since authorities raised its danger level in November 2020, said Head of Yogyakarta’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre Hanik Humaida.

The volcano eruption yesterday spewed a column of hot clouds rising 100 metres into the air, with avalanches of incandescent lava at least 15 times, according to the Geological Disaster Technology Research and Development Centre. Using seismic and other data, the agency estimated the lava spread less then two kilometres from the crater.

Head of Indonesia’s Geology and Volcanology Research Agency Eko Budi Lelono said residents living on Merapi’s slopes were advised to stay seven kilometres away from the crater’s mouth and should be aware of the danger posed by lava.

He said the lava dome just below Merapi’s southwest rim and the lava dome in the crater both have been active since last year. The volume was estimated at 1.5 million cubic metres in the southwest rim dome and 3.2 million cubic metres in the crater before partially collapsing in the past two days, sending pyroclastic flows traveling fast down the southwest flank.

“We estimate the potential danger is not more than seven kilometres,” Humaida said.

Authorities have closed at least five tourism attractions located within the danger zone of five kilometres from the crater and halted mining activities along the volcano’s rivers, Humaida said. Activities out of the danger zone remained open.

Mount Merapi is the most active of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia and has repeatedly erupted with lava and gas clouds recently. The Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre did not raise Merapi’s alert status, which already was at the second-highest of four levels since it began erupting last November.

A resident rides a motorcycle as Mount Merapi spews volcanic materials in the background at Cangkringan village in Sleman, Yogyakarta. PHOTO: AP

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