Eruption Sends Rivers of Lava Down Mt. Semeru

Indonesian villagers flee falling ash, move into shelters
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 4, 2022 2:20 PM CST
Indonesian Villagers Flee Ash After Eruption
People rest at a school turned into a temporary shelter for those evacuated from their homes following the eruption of Mt. Semeru, in Lumajang, East Java, Indonesia, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Dicky Bisinglasi)

Indonesia's highest volcano on its most densely populated island released searing gas clouds and rivers of lava on Sunday in its latest eruption. Monsoon rains eroded and finally collapsed the lava dome atop 12,060-foot Mt. Semeru, causing the eruption, said a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency. Several villages were blanketed with falling ash, blocking out the sun, but no casualties have been reported, per the AP. Several hundred residents, their faces smeared with volcanic dust and rain, fled to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas.

Thick columns of ash were blasted nearly 5,000 feet into the sky while searing gas and lava flowed down Semeru's slopes toward a nearby river. Increased activities of the volcano on Sunday afternoon prompted authorities to widen the danger zone to five miles from the crater, said Hendra Gunawan, who heads the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center. He said that scientists raised the volcano's alert level to the highest and that people were advised to keep off the southeastern sector along the Besuk Kobokan River, which is in the path of the lava flow.

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 in Indonesia, tens of thousands of people continue to live on its fertile slopes. The last major eruption was in December 2021, when 51 people were killed in villages that were buried in layers of mud. Several hundred others suffered serious burns, and the eruption forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people. The government moved about 2,970 houses out of the danger zone. 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.

(More volcano eruption stories.)

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