JAKARTA – The tallest volcano on the most densely populated Indonesian island of Java spewed thick columns of ash, hot gas and lava down its slopes in a sudden eruption caused by heavy rains on Saturday. At least one villager died of burns and dozens were hospitalized.
The eruption of Mount Semeru in Lumajang district, East Java province left several villages covered in ash.
A thunderstorm and several days of rain eroded and eventually collapsed the lava dome atop the 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) summit of Semeru, said Eko Budi Lelono, head of the geological survey center. trigger an eruption.
He said the outflow of hot gas and lava traveled as much as 800 meters (2,624 feet) to a nearby river at least twice on Saturday. The agency said people should stay 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the crater.
“Thick columns of ash have turned some villages into darkness,” said the head of Lumajang district, Thoriqul Haq. He added that hundreds of people had been moved to temporary shelters or moved to other safe areas, adding that the power outage had hampered evacuations.
Debris and lava mixed with rainfall to form a thick layer of mud destroyed the main bridge connecting Lumajang and the neighboring district of Malang, as well as a smaller bridge, Haq said.
Despite an increase in activity since Wednesday, Semeru’s alert status remains at the third-highest of four since it began erupting last year, and Indonesia’s Volcano Center for Decreasing The Geological Hazard minimization has not been raised this week, Lelono said.
Indah Masdar, deputy district chief, said one man died from severe burns and 41 others were hospitalized with burn injuries. She said two villagers had been reported missing and some sand miners were stranded in isolated areas along the village’s river.
Masdar said all houses in Curah Kobokan village were damaged by volcanic debris.
Television reports showed people screaming and running under a huge cloud of ash, their faces drenched from rain mixed with volcanic dust. Semeru 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 lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a series of horseshoe-shaped fault lines.