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Indonesia evacuates villagers as volcano erupts on Java island

Mount Semeru volcano spews volcanic ash during an eruption as seen from Candipuro in Lumajang, East Java province, Indonesia, December 4, 2022, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Iwan/ via REUTERS

A volcano has erupted in Indonesia, spewing a cloud of ash 15km into the sky and forcing the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people, authorities have said, as they issued their highest warning for the area in the east of Java island.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties from the eruption of the Semeru volcano, and Indonesia’s transport ministry said air travel was not affected, but notices had been sent to two regional airports for them to be vigilant.

“Most roads have been closed since this morning, and now it is raining volcanic ash, and it has covered the view of the mountain,” Bayu Deny Alfianto, a community volunteer, told Reuters by telephone from near the volcano.

Semeru, the tallest mountain on Java, erupted last year killing more than 50 people and displacing thousands.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said 1,979 people had been moved to 11 shelters and authorities had distributed masks to residents.

The Japan Meteorological Agency, which had initially been on alert for the possibility the volcano could trigger a tsunami, said the volcano’s plume of ash reached a height of 15km (50,000 feet).

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

Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, PVMBG, raised the level of volcanic activity to its highest level and warned residents not to approach within five miles (8km) of Semeru.