Evacuations in Indonesia as Mount Semeru erupts, spewing river of lava

Antara Foto/Umarul Faruq/ via REUTERS
A man rides a motorbike as he evacuates livestock from an area affected by the eruption of Mount Semeru volcano in Sumberwuluh, Lumajang, East Java province, Indonesia, December 5, 2022.

Mount Semeru, the tallest volcano on Java, Indonesia, erupted Sunday, sending a massive column of ash into the sky and rivers of lava flowing down steep slopes.

Nearly 2,000 people have fled their homes, according to a statement tweeted by BNPB, Indonesia’s disaster-management agency, which issued a high alert level and warned locals to steer clear of the eruption. There are no immediate reports of casualties.

Sunday’s eruption comes exactly a year after the same volcano erupted and left more than 50 people dead and villages blanketed in ash and mud. It spewed another massive column of ash two weeks later.

The 12,000-foot volcano rises above scatted villages in eastern Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, where it has wrought periodic havoc for hundreds of years. Indonesia – which sits in the Ring of Fire, a rim around the Pacific Ocean known for volcanic and seismic activity – is home to over 140 volcanoes.

Indonesia’s disaster agency said it has set up about a dozen evacuation points at schools, offices and village halls for nearly 2,000 displaced people, while emergency services continue their search-and-rescue mission. The agency is also distributing masks to help reduce the respiratory health risks from breathing in volcanic ash.

“Most roads have been closed since this morning and now it is raining volcanic ash and it has covered the view of the mountain,” volunteer Bayu Deny Alfianto told Reuters by telephone from near the impacted area.

West Java last month experienced a deadly 5.6-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 268 people. Though the quake was technically moderate, the high death toll was the result of a shallow quake epicenter and the region’s dense population.