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Indonesia’s Mount Semeru volcano unleashes lava river in new eruption

Mount Semeru releases volcanic material (AP)
Mount Semeru releases volcanic material (AP)

Indonesia’s highest volcano on its most densely populated island released searing gas clouds and rivers of lava in its latest eruption on Sunday.

Monsoon rains eroded and finally collapsed the lava dome on top of 12,060ft Mount Semeru, causing the eruption, said National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari.

Several villages were blanketed with falling ash, blocking out the sun, but no casualties have been reported.

Indonesia Volcano Eruption
Mount Semeru is Indonesia’s highest volcano (AP)

Thick columns of ash were blasted nearly 4,000 feet into the sky, while searing gas and lava flowed down Semeru’s slopes, travelling towards a nearby river.

People were advised to stay three miles from the crater’s mouth, and keep off the south-eastern area along the Besuk Kobokan river eight miles from the crater.

Several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas, mostly women, children and the elderly, said Joko Sambang who heads the disaster management agency in Lumajang, East Java province.

Rescuers monitor the flow of volcanic materials from the eruption
Rescuers monitor the flow of volcanic materials from the eruption (Hendra Permana/AP)

Semeru’s last major eruption was in December last year, when the rumbling volcano erupted with fury and left 51 people dead in villages that were buried in layers of mud.

Several hundred others were injured with serious burns, and the eruption forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 villagers.

The government moved about 2,970 houses out of the danger zone.

People rest at a school which has been turned into a temporary shelter for those evacuated from their homes following the eruption
People rest at a school which has been turned into a temporary shelter for those evacuated from their homes following the eruption (Dicky Bisinglasi/AP)

Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted numerous times in the last 200 years.

Still, as is the case with many of the 129 active volcanoes monitored in Indonesia, tens of thousands of people continue to live on its fertile slopes.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines, and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.