Thousands of people flee their homes on the island of Java, buried after the eruption of the Mount Semeru volcano

Evacuations continued on Monday on the Indonesian island of Java the day after the Mount Semeru volcano erupted, where activity seemed less.

Mount Semeru, in East Java’s Lumajang district, spewed thick plumes of ash that topped 1,500 meters (almost 5,000 feet) on Sunday. Nearby towns and villages were covered in ash, which hid the sun, although no casualties were reported.

This image shows a mixture of hot smoke with rainwater in the village of Kajar Kuning in Lumajang on December 5, 2022. (Photo by Juni Kriswanto / AFP) (JUNI KRISWANTO /)

Heavy rains eroded and eventually caused a collapse of the lava dome atop the 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) volcano, which it unleashed an avalanche of hot gas and lava down its slopes into a nearby river. Fiery gas rushed down the mountain, engulfing entire villages and destroying a bridge that had just been rebuilt after a powerful eruption last year.

Nearly 2,500 residents have already been evacuated and installed in 11 centersafter the highest mountain on the island of Java erupted.

Pyroclastic flow rushes down the slope of Mount Semeru during an eruption on Sunday, December 4, 2022 in Lumajang, East Java, Indonesia. Indonesia’s highest volcano on the country’s most densely populated island of Java erupted on Sunday. (AP Photo)

”The army, police and local authorities people continue to be evacuated from Curah Kobokanwhere the hot ash cloud and cooled lava could reach,” Abdul Muhari, a spokesman for Indonesia’s natural disaster prevention agency, told local media.

“So far there are a total of 2,489 evacuees,” detailed.

Villagers inspect damage as houses buried in volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Semeru are seen at Kajar Kuning village in Lumajang, East Java, Indonesia, Monday, December 5, 2022. Indonesia’s highest volcano on its island more densely populated it released fiery gas clouds and lava flows on Sunday in its latest eruption. (AP Photo/Imanuel Yoga) (Imanuel Yoga/)

Lumajang district chief Thoriqul Haq said people still reeling from last year’s eruption fled on their own when they heard the mountain begin to rumble on Sunday morning, so “casualties could be avoided.”

“They have learned an important lesson about how to avoid the risk of eruption”he said while inspecting a damaged bridge in the town of Kajar Kuning.

Villagers look at the hot smoke from the ground after the volcanic eruption of Mount Semeru in Lumajang, East Java, on December 4, 2022. (Photo by PUTRI / AFP) (PUTRI /)

The authorities have declared a state of emergency for a period of two weeks, and distributed free masks to protect the population from airborne ash. They also installed public kitchens to serve the evacuees.

This Monday morning, dozens of evacuees from the Lumajang district, where Semeru is located, returned to their homes covered in ash to recover personal belongings and then return to the reception centers, an AFP journalist found.

Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted several times in the last 200 years. Still, as with many of the 129 active volcanoes monitored in Indonesia, tens of thousands of people continue to live on its fertile slopes. (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP) (JUNI KRISWANTO/)

Some even removed their cattle from the area, or recovered televisions and refrigerators.

Muhari said that judging from the visual observation of Mount Semeru on Monday, the volcanic activity was lower, although lava flows pose a great danger.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of fault lines where frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity occur. (AP Photo/Hendra Permana) (Hendra Permana/)

“We want to make sure that there is no (economic) activity in the area that the cold lava and hot ash cloud could pass through,” he said.

The last major eruption of Semeru was in December 2021, when he exploded with fury and killed 51 people in towns that were buried by several layers of mud. Several hundred people suffered severe burns and the eruption forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people. The government moved some 2,970 homes out of the danger zone, including the town of Sumberwuluh.

A man looks on as Mount Semeru ejects volcanic material during an eruption on Sunday, December 4, 2022, in Lumajang, East Java, Indonesia. (AP Photo)

Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted several times in the last 200 years. Still, as with many of the 129 active volcanoes monitored in Indonesiatens of thousands of people still live on its fertile slopes.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, lies in the Pacific “Ring of Fire”a fault arc where frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity occur.

(with information from AFP and AP)

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