Thursday, December 1 2022


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JAKARTA – The highest volcano in Java, Indonesia’s most densely populated island, spat thick columns of ash, hot gas and lava along its slopes in a sudden eruption triggered by strong 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, has left several villages covered with fallen ash.

A thunderstorm and rainy days, which had eroded and ultimately collapsed the lava dome atop Semeru, 3,676 meters (12,060 feet), triggered an eruption, said Eko Budi Lelono, who runs the center of geological studies.

He said streams of scorching gas and lava had traveled up to 800 meters (2,624 feet) to a nearby river at least twice on Saturday. People were urged to stay 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the mouth of the crater, the agency said.

“Thick columns of ash plunged several villages into darkness,” said Lumajang district chief Thoriqul Haq. Several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left in other safe areas, he said, adding that the blackout had hampered the evacuation.

Debris and lava mixed with the precipitation formed thick mud that destroyed the main bridge connecting Lumajang and neighboring Malang District, as well as a smaller bridge, Haq said.

Despite an increase in activity since Wednesday, Semeru’s alert status has remained at the third-highest of four levels since its eruption began last year, and the Indonesian Volcanology Center for Mitigation geological hazards did not pick it up this week, Lelono said.

A man died from severe burns and 41 others were hospitalized with burns, said Indah Masdar, deputy district chief. She said two villagers were reported missing and several sand miners were trapped in isolated areas along the village’s river.

Entire houses in the village of Curah Kobokan were damaged by volcanic debris, Masdar said.

TV reports have shown people screaming and running under a huge cloud of ash, their faces wet from rain mixed with volcanic dust. The last time the Semeru erupted in January, there were no casualties.

Indonesia, an archipelago of over 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity as it lies along the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, a series of fault lines in horseshoe shape.

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