Mount Semeru: Volcanic eruption in Indonesia buries towns and villages under blanket of ash

Thousands were evacuated as one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes sent huge ash clouds which blocked out the daylight, ITV News' Martha Fairlie reports

Indonesia's tallest volcano has spewed thick columns of ash more than 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) into the sky after erupting on Sunday.

Rescue operations are now underway in Lumajang district, East Java, following the eruption of Mount Semeru.

Nearby towns and villages have been blanketed with falling ash, blocking out the sun, but no casualties have yet been reported.

On Monday, hundreds of rescuers were deployed in the worst-hit villages of Sumberwuluh and Supiturang, where houses and mosques were buried to their rooftops by tons of volcanic debris.

The eruption is thought to have been triggered by monsoon rains, which eroded and collapsed the lava dome atop the 3,676 meter (12,060 foot) volcano.

Semeru’s last major eruption was in December 2021, when it blew with a fury that left 51 people dead.

Several hundred others suffered serious burns and the eruption forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people.

Lumajang district chief Thoriqul Haq said villagers who are still haunted by last year's eruption fled on their own when they heard the mountain start to rumble, so that "casualties could be avoided".

Mount Semeru's eruption has covered nearby towns and villages in a blanket of ash. Credit: AP

"They have learned an important lesson on how to avoid the danger of eruption," he said.

He added nearly 2,000 people escaped to emergency shelters at several schools, but many were returned to their homes Monday to tend to their livestock and protect their property.

Increased volcanic activity on Sunday afternoon prompted authorities to widen the danger zone to five miles from the crater, while scientists raised the volcano’s alert to the highest possible level.

Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted numerous times in the past 200 years.

But as is the case with many of the 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, tens of thousands of people continue to live on its fertile slopes.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire" - a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

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