February 5, 2023

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Indonesia’s Mount Semeru unleashes a river of lava in a new volcanic eruption

Indonesia's Mount Semeru unleashes a river of lava in a new volcanic eruption

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) – Indonesia’s highest volcano on its most densely populated island spewed out scorching clouds of gas and rivers of lava Sunday in its latest eruption.

Monsoon rains eroded and finally collapsed the lava dome atop 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) Mount Semeru, causing the volcano to erupt, according to National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Abdul Mahari.

Falling ash blanketed several villages, blocking out the sunlight, but no casualties were reported. Several hundred residents, whose faces were smeared with volcanic dust and rain, fled to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas.

Dense plumes of ash were blasted more than 1,500 meters (nearly 5,000 feet) into the sky as gas and scalding lava flowed down the slopes of the Semeru toward a nearby river.

Hendra Gunawan, head of the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, said the increased activities of the volcano on Sunday afternoon prompted authorities to expand the danger zone to eight kilometers (5 miles) from the crater.

He said scientists had raised the volcano’s alert level to the highest level and advised people to stay away from the southeastern section along the Bisok Kobukan River, which is in the path of the lava flow.

The last major eruption of the Semeru volcano was in December last year. When the rage exploded, it left 51 dead in villages buried in layers of mud. Several hundred more were seriously burned and the eruption forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people. The government has moved about 2,970 homes out of the danger zone.

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Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted several times over the past 200 years. However, as with many of Indonesia’s 129 active volcanoes, tens of thousands of people still live on its lush slopes.

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