Indonesian volcano spews ash as officials grapple with disasters

JAKARTA, Jan 17 (Bloomberg): Mount Semeru volcano on Indonesia’s main Java island spewed hot ash as high as 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) on Saturday, prompting authorities to warn people to keep a distance.

People shouldn’t carry out any activities within a radius of 1 kilometer from the crater, the country’s national disaster mitigation management in a statement on Saturday. The volcano alert level was at "watch,” two notches below the highest "warning” rating.

Indonesia’s 18,000 islands sit along the Pacific Ocean’s "ring of fire” zone of active volcanoes and tectonic faults, making it prone to natural disasters such as eruptions and earthquakes.

According to Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), the 3,676-metre mountain is now categorised as level two or alert status, adding that the Volcanological Survey of Indonesia (PVBMG) is conducting further evaluations of the eruption.

Villagers living in the surrounding areas, such as in Desa Sumber Mujur and Desa Curah Koboan, were ordered to practise caution and to stay away from the mountain area, it said.

According to PVBMG's data, there are more than 70 active volcanoes in Indonesia, of which seven have erupted within the past two years.

They are Mt Anak Krakatau in Sunda Strait, Mt Merapi (Central Java), Mt Kelud (East Java), Mt Sinabung (North Sumatera), Mt Bromo (East Java), Mt Soputan and Mt Lokon (North Sulawesi).

Indonesian authorities have had to deal with several natural and man-made disasters this month.

A 6.2 magnitude earthquake rocked West Sulawesi on Friday, killing dozens. Hundreds of people were injured and about 15,000 people were evacuated.

At least five people in Manado, North Sulawesi, died from floods and landslides due to adverse weather on Saturday. Last week, at least 11 people, including rescuers, were killed and 18 hurt in West Java, after torrential rain caused mudslides.

On Jan 9, Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 carrying 62 people plunged into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta. No survivors have been found. - Bloomberg
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