Indonesia's most active volcano has erupted, spewing sand and pyroclastic material and sending a massive column of smoke and ash almost 20,000 feet into the sky.
The eruption of Mount Merapi on the main island of Java unleashed searing gas clouds 1.2 miles down its slopes, Indonesia’s Geology and Volcanology Research Agency said on its website.
It said villagers living on Merapi’s fertile slopes are advised to stay 1.8 miles from the crater’s mouth.
Ash from the eruption made rain thick and muddy in several villages. Witnesses said the sound was heard 18 miles away.
The agency did not raise the alert status of Merapi, which was already at the third-highest level due to its ongoing activity.
The 9,737-foot mountain is the most active of 500 Indonesian volcanoes. It has rumbled and generated dark hot clouds since last year. Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 353 people.
Indonesia, an archipelago of 240 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines around the ocean.