Indonesia raises volcano warning to highest after Semeru erupts, evacuates 90 people

JAKARTA, Dec 4 (Reuters) – Indonesian authorities raised the alert on Java island’s Semeru volcano to the highest level on Sunday after an eruption sent a plume of ash high into the air.

Evacuation of people, including children and the elderly, living near the volcano in East Java province has also begun, with 93 residents evacuated to shelters so far, Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said, BNPB said in a statement.

The plume from the volcano reached a height of 50,000 feet (15 km), said the Japan Meteorological Agency, which was monitoring the possibility of a tsunami there.

The eruption in eastern Java, about 640 km (400 miles) east of the capital Jakarta, followed a series of earthquakes in the west of the island, including one last month that killed more than 300 people.

Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazards Mitigation, PVMBG, has raised the level of volcanic activity to IV from III, its chief said in a text message.

With the alert level raised, authorities warned residents not to carry out any activities within 8 km (5 miles) of the center of the Semeru eruption, adding that hot ash clouds had reached up to 11.8 miles (19 km) from the center of the eruption.

PVMBG head Hendra Gunawan said the agency sees the potential for more magma supply this year compared to previous eruptions in 2021 and 2020.

“Therefore, Semeru’s hot clouds can reach further (this year) and there are many residences at that distance,” he said.

Around the same time last year, the eruption of Semeru, Java’s highest mountain, killed more than 50 people and left a few missing while thousands were displaced.

Some nearby residents have self-evacuated to safer buildings such as mosques and schools, according to a statement from the regional government of Lumajang, where Semeru is located.

“Most of the roads have been closed since this morning. Volcanic ash is raining now and it has covered the view of the mountain,” Bayou Denny Alfaianto, a local volunteer, told Reuters by telephone.

Smaller eruptions continued in the rain area as well, he said.

The volcano began erupting at 2:46 a.m. (1946 GMT Saturday), BNPB said in a statement. Videos posted on social media showed gray clouds of ash in nearby areas.

With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the world’s largest population living near a volcano, including 8.6 million within 10 km (6 mi).

The deadly late November earthquake that struck Cianjur in West Java was a shallow 5.6-magnitude quake. A lot deeper tremor on Saturday in Gurat with a magnitude of 6.1 sent people fleeing buildings but did not cause major damage.

Reporting by Stefano Suleiman and Angie Teo in Jakarta; Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo; Editing by William Mallard and Lincoln Feist

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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