Mount Semeru the highest mountain on Indonesia’s main island of Java, about 800km southeast of the capital, Jakarta has erupted forcing thousands of residents to flee for their safety.
According to local press, the volcano started spewing hot ash clouds on Sunday sparking the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people exactly one year after its last major eruption killed dozens.
“Hot avalanches” caused by piles of lava at the tip of the 3,676m volcano slid down after the eruption, Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Abdul Muhari said in a statement.
The increased threat level “means the danger has threatened the people’s settlement and the volcano’s activity has escalated,” Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center spokesman Hendra Gunawan told broadcaster Kompas TV.
No casualties or injuries were reported immediately after the eruption, but Gunawan warned local residents not to travel within 8km of the crater after the threat level was raised to four.
The BNPB said that 1,979 people were taken to 11 shelters, with at least six villages affected by the eruption.
Videos shared by local rescue group Irannala Rescue showed a huge black cloud rising from the volcano’s crater, engulfing the sky and blocking the sun in nearby villages.
The villages were being battered by monsoon rains by the afternoon and the rainfall was mixing with volcanic ash, Kompas reported.
Residents were also told to avoid a southeastern area 13km along a river in the direction where the ash was traveling.
“A lot of people have started to go down,” Thoriqul Haq, the administration head for Lumajang Regency, where the volcano is located, told Kompas.
Most residents in the two most-threatened villages have fled, Lumajang Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Patria Dwi Hastiadi said.
The Japan Meteorological Agency earlier warned that a tsunami was possible in the southern islands of Miyako-jima and Yaeyama in Okinawa Prefecture, Kyodo News reported, but the agency said no significant tidal changes were observed.