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Eruption of Java’s volcano forces thousands to evacuate in Indonesia

Indonesia’s highest volcano on its most densely populated island released searing gas clouds and rivers of lava Sunday in its latest eruption, forcing the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people.

Monsoon rains are said to have eroded and finally collapsed the lava dome atop Mount Semeru, causing the eruption, according to National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari.

Several villages were blanketed with falling ash, blocking the sun, but no casualties have been reported. 

Emergency services have distributed 10,000 cloth masks, 10,000 medical masks and 4,000 children’s masks to reduce the effect of volcanic ash on people’s health, while the Red Cross has set up a public kitchen to help the homeless.

Increased activities of the volcano on Sunday afternoon prompted authorities to widen the danger zone to 8 kilometers from the crater, said Hendra Gunawan, who heads the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center.

And emergency teams monitoring the situation from the ground have urged residents not to engage in any activity in the south-eastern village of Besuk Kobokan, 13 kilometres from the summit of the mountain and the centre of the volcanic eruption.

Semeru’s last major eruption was in December last year, killing 51 people in villages buried in mud. 

Several hundred others suffered serious burns, and the eruption forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people then. The government moved about 2,970 houses out of the danger zone.

Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted numerous times in the last 200 years. Still, tens of thousands of people live on its fertile slopes.

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.

Watch the full report in the player above.

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