14 Feb 2014

Indonesia volcano eruption forces 100,000 to flee

Up to 100,000 people are evacuated and three major airports are closed, after one of Indonesia’s most powerful volcanoes erupts on the island of Java.

Two people were killed when parts of their homes collapsed after Mount Kelud’s explosive eruption on Thursday night.

Volcanic ash shrouded a large swath of the country’s most densely populated island, and closed three international airports

Mount Kelud is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, and the country’s disaster agency ordered people living within a 10km radius of the volcano to leave their homes when the first signs of heightened activity came through. The agency estimated over 100,000 had been forced to flee.

The initial blasts sent millions of cubic meters of dust and rocks into the atmosphere, according to the country’s disaster agency, and the noise of the eruption could be heard up to 200 kilometres away.

Ash up to an inch deep covered Surabaya, the country’s second largest city, and even farther afield in Jogyakarta, where motorists were forced to switch on headlights in daylight.

Jogyakarta, Solo and Surabaya airports were closed due to reduced visibility and the dangers posed to aircraft engines by the ash.

Ash thrown 17 km in the air

The country’s disaster agency said tremors were still wracking the volcano, but scientists did not expect another major eruption. Nonetheless, people in Kediri, East Java, were being evacuated from their homes as a precaution.

“Areas to the west of Mount Kelud, including central Java, Yogyakarta, Cilacap, Magelang, Temanggung and Boyolali are still experiencing showers of ash because last night the biggest eruption… threw sand and ash 17km into the air to the west,” National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho told Reuters.

Nugroho said the agency was still trying to confirm reports that two people had died.

“We don’t have data yet on how many people have been evacuated in total. We can say 200,000 people were affected. We received reports of deaths but we have not verified them yet,” he added

Indonesian police distribute face masks to residents on the streets of Malang, East Java (G)

Indonesian police distribute face masks to residents on the streets of Malang, East Java province, as volcanic ash covered the city