Indonesia evacuates thousands of people after multiple volcanoes exhibit increasing activity

The volcanic activity of the Mount Semeru in Indonesia’s Lumajang, East Java Province has increased prompting evacuation of thousands of people.

Hot ash tumbled as far as 3,000 metres down the slopes of Mount Semeru early on Tuesday, triggering panic among villagers, said Raditya Jati, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman. Falling ash and sulphur blanketed several villages around its slopes.

The mountain is the highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java.

Jati said authorities are still trying to evacuate about 550 people living on the mountain’s slopes. There were no reports of injuries or serious damage, he said.

Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation did not raise Semeru’s alert status, which already was at the third-highest level since it began erupting in May.

Villagers and tourists are advised to stay 4km from the crater, the agency said.

Tuesday’s eruption came two days after Mount Ili Lewotolok shot out columns of hot clouds as high as 4,000 metres into the sky.

More than 4,600 people were evacuated from the slopes of the mountain, located on Lembata island in East Nusa Tenggara province.

The volcanology agency raised Ili Lewotolok’s alert to the second-highest level on Sunday after sensors picked up increased activity.

The mountain has been rumbling since October 2017.

The country’s transportation ministry said a flight warning was issued after the eruption and a local airport was closed as ash rained down on many areas of the island.

In another part of Java island, authorities evacuated more than 1,800 people living on the volatile Mount Merapi volcano’s fertile slopes since early November following an increase in volcanic activity.

Local administrations in Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces are closely monitoring the mountain after the geological agency raised Merapi’s alert to the second-highest level and people were advised to stay 5km away from the crater.

Merapi spewed ash and hot gas as high as 6km into the sky in June, but no casualties were reported. Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 347 people and caused the evacuation of 20,000 villagers.

Authorities in North Sumatra province are also closely monitoring Mount Sinabung after sensors picked up increasing activity since August. Villagers were advised to stay 5km from the crater and be aware of any lava.

Indonesia is home to more than 120 active volcanoes and is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.