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Indonesia: death toll rises to 13 after eruption of Semeru volcano

Handout picture taken and released on December 4, 2021 by Indonesia's National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) showing Semeru volcano spewing ash into the air during an eruption as seen from Lumajang.

One person has died after the highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java spewed thick columns of ash high into the sky, triggering panic among people living nearby.

As well as the fatality, the volcanic eruption of Mount Semeru in East Java province caused 41 burn injuries, said the deputy district chief of Lumajang, an area nearby.

Mount Semeru’s sudden eruption on Saturday left several villages around its slopes blanketed with falling ash.

The eruption was accompanied by a thunderstorm, which pushed lava and smoldering debris and formed thick mud that destroyed at least one bridge connecting two main villages of Pronojiwo and Candipuro, as well as hampering the evacuation, Lumajang district head Thoriqul Haq told TVOne.

“Thick columns of ash have turned several villages to darkness,” Haq said, adding that several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas.

Television reports showed people running in panic under a huge ash cloud, their faces wet from rain mixed with volcanic dust. The 3,676-metre (12,060-ft) Semeru had last erupted in January, with no casualties.

Authorities were setting up evacuation tents, the country’s disaster mitigation agency, BNPB, said. But evacuations have been hampered by thick smoke, its chief Suharyanto said.

AirNav Indonesia, which controls Indonesian airspace, said in a statement the eruption did not “cause significant impact” on flights. Semeru, the highest on Java island, is among Indonesia’s nearly 130 active volcanoes.

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


People ride a motorbike on a road that is covered with volcanic ash following an eruption of the Semeru mount volcano.

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