Thousands flee as Mount Semeru erupts

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia’s Mount Semeru erupted yesterday, spewing out a tower of smoke and ash that plunged local communities into darkness and forced thousands of nearby residents to flee.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, the country’s disaster mitigation agency said.

But rescuers moved to evacuate local residents as lava reached nearby villages and destroyed a bridge in Lumajang regency in East Java.

“A number of areas went dark after being covered by volcanic ash,” agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said.

“We are building some shelters in several locations in Lumajang,” he added.

Cement trucks belonging to sand miners sit buried by volcanic ash after heavy rains shifted ash from the slopes of Indonesia’s most active volcano, Merapi in Magelang. PHOTO: AFP

A video released by the agency showed locals, including scores of children, running for safety as Mount Semeru erupted at 3pm yesterday.

Local authorities established a restricted zone of five kilometres from the crater after the eruption.

Semeru’s alert status has remained at its second-highest level since its previous major eruption in December 2020, which also forced thousands to flee and left villages covered.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.

The Southeast Asian archipelago nation has nearly 130 active volcanoes.

In late 2018, a volcano in the strait between Java and Sumatra islands erupted, causing an underwater landslide and tsunami which killed more than 400 people.