Residents on the Indonesian island of Java are fleeing a huge plume of ash as an active volcano erupted for the second time in recent months. According to eyewitnesses, a thick stream of volcanic ash from the Semeru volcano has obscured the sun in two local areas.
No casualties have yet been reported and evacuations are underway, officials said.Meanwhile, the watchdog has issued a warning to airlines about an ash cloud rising as high as 15,000 meters.
The eruption occurred at about 2:30 p.m. local time (07:30 GMT). After the eruption, local authorities established an exclusion zone 5 km from the crater.
Torikul Haq, a local official, told Reuters that the road and bridge from the area to the nearby town of Malang had been destroyed.
“Since the eruption, the situation has become very acute and precipitous,” he said.
The Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) in Darwin, Australia, said the ash appears to have separated from the summit and is drifting southwest over the Indian Ocean.
VAAC is advising the aviation industry on the location and movement of potentially dangerous volcanic ash.
Campbell Biggs, a VAAC meteorologist, told the BBC that the 15,000-meter plume exceeds the cruising altitude for most planes and will force most flights in the vicinity to change their flight path to avoid it.
Ash solidifying on the colder parts of aircraft engines can disrupt airflow, which can cause engines to stop or fail completely.
It also impairs visibility for pilots and can affect cabin air quality, making the use of oxygen masks necessary.
Mount Semeru was a fairly active volcano that regularly spewed ash at about 4,300 meters, so Saturday’s eruption was “a pretty significant increase in intensity,” Mr. Biggs said.
Semeru volcano rises 3,676 meters above sea level and previously erupted last December, forcing thousands of residents to seek shelter.
It is among Indonesia’s nearly 130 active volcanoes.
Indonesia is in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where continental plates collide, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activity.
Footage posted on social media shows residents fleeing while a giant ash cloud rises behind them.