'Villages turned to darkness': Residents flee in panic as Indonesian volcano spews huge ash cloud

Residents were seen sprinting away from the huge ash clouds in dramatic footage. Credit: Twitter/PRB Indonesia BNPB

Residents on the Indonesian island of Java were seen fleeing fleeing for their lives as thick plumes of ash spewed from a volcano high into the sky on Saturday.

Mount Semeru’s sudden eruption in the Lumajang district, of the East Java province, left several villages around its slopes blanketed with falling ash.

It is the second time this year the island's highest volcano has erupted, triggering panic among locals who officials are working to evacuate.

No casualties have yet been reported, said officials.

“Thick columns of ash have turned several villages to darkness,” Lumajang district head Thoriqul Haq told TVOne.

Several hundred people have been moved to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas, added the official.

The volcanic eruption came with a heavy thunderstorm and rain, which pushed lava and smoldering debris to form thick mud that destroyed at least one bridge connecting two main villages of Pronojiwo and Candipuro, hampering evacuation efforts.

Television reports showed people running in panic under a huge ash cloud, their faces wet from rain mixed with volcanic dust.

The 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) Semeru had last erupted in January, with no casualties. Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 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.