LUMAJANG, KOMPAS.com - Indonesia's Mount Semeru erupted Sunday, Dec. 4, spewing hot ash clouds a mile high and rivers of lava down its side while sparking the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people exactly one year after its last major eruption killed dozens.
The burst from the highest mountain on Indonesia's main island of Java, around 800 kilometers southeast of the capital Jakarta, prompted authorities to raise the alert status for the volcano to the highest level.
Villages around Semeru were being battered by a mix of volcanic ash and monsoon rains. Videos shared with AFP by a local rescue group showed a huge black cloud rising from the volcano, engulfing the sky and blocking the sun.
One resident described the panic when the ash clouds descended on their village.
"It was dark, I could not see anything. It was raining water and ash," the person, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
"I didn't know where to take shelter. I had to flee."
"Hot avalanches" triggered by piles of lava at the top flooded down the 3,676-meter mountain, said Abdul Muhari, a spokesperson for Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).
A spokesperson for Indonesia's Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Centre (PVMBG) told broadcaster Kompas TV that the higher alert level meant local villages were in danger.
However, no casualties or injuries were reported on Sunday after the PVMBG warned nearby residents not to travel within eight kilometers of the crater.
The geological agency said that by evening Semeru was "still in the eruption phase" though the size of the ash clouds was decreasing.
"Overall the activity is still very high," it said in a statement.
The internet in the area was down and phone signals were patchy after the eruption, according to an AFP journalist.
Rain and ash
The BNPB said 1,979 people had been taken to 11 shelters, with at least six villages affected by the eruption.